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The sovereignty of the Gael to the Clan Cholla, 
It is right to proclaim it." 

Entienuss : 
















This is the first of* three volumes of the Clan 
Donald History, undertaken at the request of 
the Clan Donald Society. The large variety of 
authorities to be consulted, illustrative matter 
recently come to hand, and an Appendix more 
voluminous than was at first anticipated, these, 
along with other unexpected causes, have com- 
pelled the postponement of its publication beyond 
the date at which it was first expected to 
appear. It is hoped that, notwithstanding inevi- 
table faults and failings, the manner in which 
the work has so far been executed may prove 
satisfactory to our Clan Donald readers, and that, 
entenng as it does to a large extent upon the 
domain of Scottish History, it may also prove 
acceptable to the public at large. That such 
a work should have been mooted at this time of 
day may appear superfluous to those who believe 
that the subject has already been treated exhaus- 
tively throughout its wide extent. Such an 
assumption is very wide of the mark. The late 
Dr Skene, even in his earlier and less mature work 
on " The Highlanders of Scotland," in which he 
has occasion to refer at considerable lenc^th to 


" Siol Chuinu," did not profess to write the history 
of the Clan Donald ; and Mr Donald Gregory — 
than whom no more painstaking, thorough, or con- 
scientious student of Scottish history ever lived — 
wrote of this Clan only so far as to illustrate the 
general history of the Highlands up to 1625. Mr 
Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, in his erudite researches 
regarding "The Last Macdonalds of Isla," i.e., of 
Dunnyveg, has only touched upon a part of the 
stirring annals of that House. Mr Alexander 
Mackenzie, M.J. I., is doubtless responsible for a 
compilation entitled " The History of the Mac- 
donalds and Lords of the Isles," drawn principally 
from the pages of Skene, Gregory, the Clanranald 
Book of 1819, Wood's Douglas's Peerage, and other 
writers. It is clear, however, that a production 
of this nature, based upon second-hand materials 
rather than upon primary sources of historical 
study, cannot, upon the most charitable view, be 
regarded as a serious contribution to the literature 
of the subject. Even as a compilation it is 
defective in scope. Many Macdonald families 
whose position was outstanding, and whose annals 
abounded in most stirring events — such as Dunny- 
veg, Antrim, Ardnamurchan, Largie, and others- 
have been passed over with a mere reference in this 
"History of the Macdonalds and Lords of the Isles." 
The period embraced in this volume extends from 
the twelfth down to the middle of the sixteenth 
century, the purpose being to trace the history of 


the Lordship of the Isles not only to the fall of 
the House of Isla in 1493, but also to record the 
successive attempts made to restore it down to the 
last move by Sir James Macdonald in 1545-6. While 
wiiting the earlier chapters we felt embarrassed by 
our remoteness from the or'reat libraries of the South, 
and consequently this part of the volume may have 
to some extent suffered as regards thoroughness of 
research. With respect to the bulk of the volume 
these difficulties have been overcome. Through the 
great kindness of Miss Yule, of Tarradale House, the 
rich resources of the London Library were placed at 
our disposal, while through the unwearied co-operation 
of an accomplished Clanswoman, Miss Macdonell of 
Keppoch, we have obtained many valuable extracts 
from the Library of the British Museum. We also 
spent much time among the various libraries of the 
" Modern Athens," and obtained from a number of 
sources information both interesting and fresh. To 
Mr Morrison of the Public Library, Mr Clark of 
tlie Advocates' Library, Dr Joseph Anderson of 
the Society of Antiquaries Library, and to Mr 
Maitland-Thomson of the Historical Department 
of the Register House, we tender our sincerest 
thanks for the facilities so kindly and courteously 
afforded. The valuable private library of Beaufort 
Castle, Inverness-shire, was with great kindness 
opened up to us by Lord Lovat. Its varied 
collection of club publications and other historical 
works have proved of immense assistance, and we 


beg to record our deep sense of his lordship's 
courtesy and consideration. 

In the course of our researches we have consulted 
at first hand such repositories of historical lore as 
the Annals of the Four Masters, The Annals of 
Ulster, The Annals of Loch Ce, Hugh Macdonald's 
MS., the Macdonald MS. of 1700, The Chronicle 
of Man, Anecdotes of Olave the Black, The 
Chartulary of Paisley, Haco's Expedition, Acts of 
the Scottish Parliament, Rymer's Foedera, Ayloffe's 
Calendar of Ancient Charters, Potuli Scoti?e, 
Patent Roll, Anderson's Historical Documents of 
Scotland, Robertson's Index of Charters, Register 
of the Great Seal, Exchequer Rolls, Chamberlain 
Rolls, Acts of the Lords of Council, Registei' 
of the Privy Seal, Documents in State Paper Office, 
with many other historical works written on the 
Highlands of Scotland. 

Mrs Ramsay of Kildalton very kindly lent us a 
copy of " The Book of Islay," printed for private 
circulation only, and containing much material for 
our work, available mostly for the period embraced 
in our second volume. 

To the heads of the great Families of the Isles 
who so readily responded to our request for help 
we owe a deep debt of gratitude. Lord Macdonald 
and the Chief of Clanranald, who have placed at 
our disposal a mass of most valuable papers, have 
conferred a very great obligation not only upon 
us but through us upon the Clan in general, and 


no effort will be spared to turn these documents — 
relating to the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth 
centuries — to the very best account. Lord Antrim's 
courteous response to our enquiries as to historical 
documents connected with his Family calls for our 
warmest thanks. 

Colonel Macdonald of Glenaladale and iEneas R. 
Macdonald, Esq. of Morar, in proof of the great 
interest they take in our work, have kindly furnished 
us with historical documents of considerable interest 
and value. We record with sincere thanks the 
interest displayed in our work by our friend and 
countryman, Alexander Macdonald, Esq. of Bal- 
ranald and Edenwood, head of the Clann Domhnuill 
Herraich, who with his wonted kindness has furnished 
us with valuable genealogical notes connected w^ith 
the ancient family of which he is the representative. 
We beg also to acknowledge our obligations to 
Captain Allan Macdonald of Waternish, head of the 
house of Balfinlay, for the warm interest he has 
manifested in us and in our work, as well as for 
interesting historical materials available for our 
second volume. We desire to record with most 
grateful recollections the aid and co-operation 
rendered us by one of the warmest- hearted of 
Clansmen and best of Highlanders, Alexander 
Macdonald, Esq. of Treaslan, Portree. For various 
contributions towards this and the succeeding 
volumes we have to acknowledge our indebtedness 
to that genial and enthusiastic Clansman, Dr 


Keith Norman Macdonald of Ediiibane Hospital, 
Skye, the Orpheus of the Clan, whose volumes on 
the music and song of the Gael are the delight of 
all Highlanders. 

Among others who have assisted us during the 
progress of this volume special reference is due to 
Charles Fraser-Mackintosh, Esq. of Drummond, 
lately M.P. for Inverness-shire, whose services, 
whether in the field of literature or politics, deserve 
the everlasting gratitude of every Highlander. We 
desire also to record our obligation to Dr C. R, 
Macdonald, County Medical Officer, Ayr, who 
kindly placed at our disposal papers left by his 
cultured father, the late Hugh Macdonald, Esq., 
Grandtully, whose memory as an indefatigable 
collector and writer of Clan Donald lore deserves 
honourable mention in any record of the Clan 
Cholla. We are much indebted to the kindness 
of a cultured young gentleman, D. Murray Rose, 
Esq., for many valuable suggestions as to sources 
of information, and for other assistance. Special 
acknowledgment is likewise due to Ranald W. 
Macdonald, Esq., of H.M. Customs, one of the 
secretaries of the Glasgow Macdonald Society, and 
John Macdonald, Esq., Newton-on-Ayr, formerly 
one of the secretaries of the Glasgow Macdonald 
Society, for help often asked and as often generously 
and ungrudgingly given. We have further to 
express our sense of the kindly help rendered us by 
Andrew Ross, Esq., S.S.C., Marchmont Herald, Edin- 


burgh, and W. R. Macdonald, Esq., of the Scottish 
MetropoHtan Life Assurance Company, Edinburgh. 
Last, but not least, we would record our gratitude 
to the venerable Miss L. C E,. Macdonell, Mavis 
Bank, Rothesay, daughter of that prince of High- 
landers, the late Colonel Alexander Ranaldson 
Macdonell of Glengarry. 

We trust that the illustrations, most of which are 
entirely new, will enhance the value of the volame 
and its interest to the Clan. In connection with 
these we have again to ex]:)ress our indebtedness to 
Miss Josephine M. Macdonell of Keppoch, who has 
contributed several animated battle scenes, and whose 
cordial assistance has ever been ungrudgingly 
bestowed. In conclusion, we must in justice 
express our obligations to the manager of the 
Northern Counties Printing and Publishing Com- 
pany, Limited (Mr Livingston), whose valuable 
advice and unfailing urbanity have made the passage 
of this volume through the press most pleasant to 

July 7, 1896. 




Difficulties of the Subject. — Primitive Populations. — Picts and Dalriads. — 
Union of Dalriada and Pictavia. — The Norse Occupation. — Kingdom 
of Man and the Isles. — Traces of the Norseman. — Tlie Gall-Gael . 1 


Rise of the Kingdom of Alban. — Rise and Growth of English Influence. — 
Feudal Scotland. — Origin of the Clan Donald. — Theories on the 
Subject. — The Dalriadic Origin. — Genealogj' of the Clan down to 
Somerled ............ 18 



Gilledomnan. — Gillebride na h-uaimh. — His attempt to recover the Family 
Inheritance. — His Failure. — Rise of Somerled. — Early Life. — Gaelic 
Rising. — The Maclnneses. — Somerled's Leadership and Strategy. — 
Regulus of Argyll. — Olave the Red.— Marriage with Ragahildis. — 
Accession of Godred. — Rebellion in Man. — Battle off Isla. — Division 
of Isles. — Conquest of Man. — Malcolm Macbeth. — Somerled's Treaty 
with Malcolm IV. — Somerled's Invasion of Scotland.— His Death, 
Character, and Position ......... 36 



The Sons of Somerled. — Di\'ision of Patrimony. — Strife between Reginald 
and Angus. — Death of Angus. — Reginald Succeeds to his Estates. — 
Character of Reginald. — Question of Seniority. — Descendants of 


Dugald Mac Somerled. — The Sons of Reginald. — Descent of King 
Alexander upon Argyll in 1221-2. — Descent in 1249. — Position of 
Ewiu of Lorn. — Donald of Isla. — Angus Mor. — Scottish Aggi'cssion 
in Isles. — Roderick of Bute. — Haco's Expedition — Battle of Largs. — 
Cession of Isles. — Position of the Island Lords . . . . .56 



Death of Alexander III. and subsequent Anarch}-. — Angus Mor's Relation 
to Scottish Parties. — Convention of Estates Settling Crown. — Angus 
Mor favours the Bruce Interest — Death of Angus Mor. — Division of 
Territories. — Alexander of Isla Suj^ports England. — Defeat by Bruce, 
Caiitivity, and Death. —Angus Og joins Bruce. — Bannockburn. — 
Death of Angus Og 80 


THE GOOD JOHN OF ISLA.- 1330-1386. 

John of Isla. — His rehition to .Scottish Pai-ties. — Treaty with Balliol. — 
Forfeiture. — Foifciture of Reginald Macruaii. — Pardon fnd Rein.state- 
ment. — Assassination of Reginald Macruari. — John aud the Lands of 
Garmoran, &c. John at the Battle of Poictiers. —His Captivity. — 
Ransom. — Connection with the Nati nal Party.- Second Marriage.— 
Constable of Edinburgh ' Castle. — High Steward of Scotland. — 
Rebellion.— Treaty of Inverness. — Lordship of the Isles. — John's 
Eminence.- Death. — Controversial Questions. — The Two Marriages . 103 



The Succession of Donald to the Lfn-dship of the Isles. — Reginald and the 
Crown Charter of 1373. — The jiosition of Godfrey. — John Mor 
Tainistear and Alasdair Carrach. — Donald's policy. — Celtic supremacy. 
— Alliance with England. — Richard II. at Finlaggan in Isla. — 
Rebellion of Alasdair Carrach. — The Marldom of Ross. — The Lord 
of the Isles inva<les the Earldom. — Defeat of .\ngus Dubh Mackay at 
Dingwall. — Donald takes possession of Inverness. — March to Aber- 
deen. — The Battle of Harlaw. — Defeat of Mar and his Lowlanders. — 
Donald retires to the Isles. — The Regent Albany with an army 
invades Ross, and takes po.ssessiou of the Earldom. — Albany's 
Campaigns in Argyle. — John of Fordoun's Treaty of Poi-tgilp. — 
The Rebellion of John Mor. — Character and Death of the Hero of 
Harlaw 130 




Alexander's Accession to the Lordship. — James I. returns. — Earldom of 
Ross in the Crown. — James I. ^^sits Inverness. — Convention. — State 
of Highlands. — Murder of John Mor. — Dispute about Garmoran. — 
Murder of Alexander MacGorrie. — Imprisonment of Lord of Isles. — 
His Liberation. — His Revolt. — Surrender at Holyrood. — Captivity in 
Tantallon. — Inverlochy. —Release of Alexander. — Murder of James I. 
— Alexander receives the Earldom. — Appointed Justiciar. — Favours 
to Mackintosh. — Death of Alexander. — His Character . . . 169 



John de lie, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles.— The Earl a Minor when 
he succeeded. — Minority of James II. — League between the Earls of 
Ross, Crawford, and Douglas. — The Earl of Ross in Rebellion. — 
Murder of the Earl of Douglas. — The Earl of Ross and his Ross-shire 
Neighbours. — Raids on Orkney by the Islemen. — Meeting of Douglas 
and Macdonald at Dunstaffuage. — Invasion of the King's Lands by 
Donald Balloch. — Raid of Lismore. —Discomfiture of Bishop Lauder. 
— The Lady of the Isles Escapes from the Highlands. — John receives 
favours from the King. — He is appointed one of the Wardens of the 
Marches.— The Earl of Ross at the Siege of Roxburgh. — Treaty of 
Ardthornish ........... 200 



Events following Ardthornish Treaty. — Its Discovery. — Cause of Dis- 
covery. — Indictment. — Summons. — Forfeiture. — Expeditions against 
John. — He Submits. — Resignation. — Partial Re-instatement and New 
Honour.— Charter of 1476.— Sentiment in Isles.— Angus Og.— His 
Attitude. — Rebellion in Knapdale. — Invasion of Ross. — Feud with 
Mackenzie. — Lagabraad. — Bloody Bay. — Abduction of Donald Dubh. 
—Raid of Athole.— The Probable Facts. — Angus' Reconciliation to 
his Father.— Assassination of Angus Og. — Alexander of Lochalsh. — 
Invasion of Ross.— Battle of Park.— John's Final Forfeiture and 
Death 241 




State of the Highland.^ after the Forfeiture of the Lord of the Isles. — 
James IV. visits the Highlands, and holds Court at Dunstaffnage. — 
Several Highland Chiefs submit to the King. — The King at Tarbert 
in Kintyre. — Left Garrisons at Tarbert and Dunaverty. — Revolt of 
the Clan Iain Mhoir. — The King at Mingarry receives Submission of 
many of the Highland Chiefs. — Legislation for the Isles. — Rebellion 
of Alexander of Lochalsh, — The King grants Charters at his new 
Castle of Kilkerran, in Kintyre. — The King revokes Charters 
formerly granted by him to the Highland Chiefs. — Rebellion of 
Donald Dubh. — Legislation for the Highlands. — Appointment of 
Sheriffs. — The position of the different Branches of the Clan Donald. 
— The Highlanders at Flodden. — First Rebellion of Sir Donald of 
Lochalsh. — Second Rebellion of Sir Donald of Lochalsh. — His Death. 283 



Rise of the House of Argyle. — Bonds of Maurent to Clan Donald. — 
Escape of James V., and change of Policy. — Troubles in the North 
and South Isles. — Donald Gruamach. — Alexander of Dunnyveg. — 
Feud of Clan Iain Mhoir with Argyle. — The Clan Maclean unite 
with Clan Iain Mhoir against Argyle. — Argyle Invades Maclean 
Territory. — Cawdor's Proposals for Pacifying Isles. — Mission of 
Robert Hart. — Mission of Argyle and Murray. — The King takes the 
Isles in hand. — Alexander of Dunnyveg Submits. — Argyle's Dis- 
appointment. — Alexander of Dunny veg's Indictment. — Argyle's 
Disgrace. — Rebellion of Donald Gorme of Sleat. — Siege of Elian - 
donan. — Death of Donald Gorme. — Royal Progi'ess through Isles. — 
Captivity of Chiefs. — Death of James V. — Escape of Donald Dubh. — 
Scottish Parties. — Liberation of Chiefs. — Donald Dubh Invades 
Argyle and Lochaber. — Correspondence with Henry VIII. — Proclam- 
ation against Rebels. — Donald Dubh and Earl of Lennox. — Failure of 
Rebellion. — Death of Donald Dubh. — Pretensions of James of Dunny- 
veg to the Lordship. — Abdication of Claims ..... 327 



Structure of Celtic Society. — The Council of St Finlaggan. — Accounts of 
Proclamation of Lords of the Isles. — An Independent Mortuath. — 
Tametry. —The Toshach. — The Judge.— Officials. — Relation to the 


Land. — The Tribe Lands. — Demesne and Church Lands. — Law of 

Gavel. — The Nubility and Commonalty. — Mackintosh Charter. — 
Herezeld Blodwite. — Ward and Relief. — Marriage Law. — Hand- 
fasting.— State and Wealth of Highland Princes .... 391 



The Celtic Church. — Its Character. — Its Decay, — Rise of Latin Church. — 
Diocese of Isles. — Somerled in Man. — S. Machutus. — Saddell. — Its 
Foundation and Endowment. — Tayinloan. — Abbey of lona Built and 
Religious Orders Established by Reginald. — Connection with 
Paisley. —The Good John and his Wife as Church Patrons. — Oransay 
Priory. — Trinity Chapel, Carinish. — Grimsay Oratory. — Sons of 
John of Isla and the Church. — Howmore.— Earls of Ross. — 
Education,— Art 446 


Charter by Reginald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Paisley Abbey . .485 
Charter by Donald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Paisley Abbey . . . 486 
Charter by Angus Macdonald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Paisley Abbey . 487 
Confirmation of the Gift of the Church of St. Kiaran, in Kintyre, by 

Angus Macdonald of Islay, Lord of the Isles, to Paisley Abbey . . 487 
Gift of the Church of St. Kiaran 1:>}' Alexander of Isla, Lord of the Isles, 

to Paisley Abbey 488 

Safe Conduct to Angus Macdonald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, and Alexander, 

his son ... 489 

Agreement by Angus Macdonald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, and Alexander, 

his son, to keep the peace within the Isles ...... 489 

Summons to John Balliol from Edward I., concerning Alexander of Isla, 

Lord of the Isles, and Juliana, his wife ...... 490 

Appointment of Alexander of Isla, Lord of the Isles, as Bailie of Kintyre, 

by Edward 1 491 

Grant by Edward I, to Alexander of Isla, Lord of the Isles . . . 491 
Commission by Edward I. to Alexander of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to arrest 

the rebels of Argyle and Ross 492 

Statement by Alexander of Isla, Lord of the Isles, in which he vindicates 

his conduct ........... 492 

Letter from Angus Og of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Edward I. . . . 494 

Charter Ijy Robert I. to Roderick, the son of Allan ..... 495 

Confirmation by Edward 111. of Charter by Edward Balliol to Jolui of 

Isla, Lord of the Isles 496 

Safe Conduct for John of the Isles by Edward III 4J>7 



Safe Conduct for John of the Isles by Edward III 497 

Commission to the Earl of SaU.-sbury to treat with John of Isla, Lord of 

the Isles 498 

Letter from Edward III. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles . . , 499 
Charter by David 11. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles .... 500 
Safe Conduct for John of Isla, Lord of the Isles, prisoner in Wales . . 501 
Confirmation by David II. of Charter to John of Isla, Lord of the Islee . 501 
Charter by Robert II. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles .... 501 

Death of Ranald Macruari 502 

Confirmation of Charter by John of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Reginald. 

his sou, by Robert II. 502 

Charter of Robert II. of the Lands of Colousay to John of Islay, Lord of 

the Isles 503 

Charter of Robert II. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles, of the Lands of 

Lochaber ............ 504 

Charter of David II. to John of Isla, and Margaret, his wife, of the Lands 

of Buchanan 504 

Safe Conduct for Donald, son of John of Isla, Lord of the Isles, student 

at Oxford ..... ....... 505 

Safe Conduct for Hugh of the Isles 505 

Commission to the Bishop of the Isles to treat with the sons of John of 

Isla, Lord of the Isles ......... 505 

Charter by Godfrey Macdouald, Lord of Uist, to the Monastery of St 

John's, Inchafiray £06 

Charter by Donald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Lachlau Maclean of Dowart 507 
Safe Conduct for John Mor Tanisteir, and Donald, his brother . . 508 

Aneut Treating with Donald of the Isles 509 

Latin Poem on Somerled, King of the Isles, and Lord of Argyle . . 509 

Lines on Somerled 511 

Charter by Donald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Angus Mackay of Strath- 

naver, and Neil, his son . . . . . . . . .512 

Anent Treating with Donald of the Isles ....... 513 

Gaelic Charter by Macdonald to Brian Vicar Mackay .... 513 

Anent Treating with Donald of the Isles ....... 515 

Incitement to Battle addressed to Macdouald of the Isles and his Army at 

Harlaw by MacVuirich . . . . . . . . ,516 

Charter by Donald of Isla, Lord of the Isles, to Maclean .... 525 

The Genealogy of Siol Chuinn from Conn to Somerled .... 525 

Charter by Alexa^ler of Isla, Earl of Ross, and Lord of the Isles, to 

Alexander M'CuUoch 527 

Charter of Confirmation from Alexander of Isla, Earl of Ross, and Lord of 

the Isles, to Sir Walter of Innes, Lord of that Ilk .... 528 
Charter by Alexander of Isla, Earl of Ross, and Lord of the Isles, to 

Hugh Rose of Kih-avock 529 

Charter of Badenoch, &c., by the Earl of Ross 530 

Precept of Sasine in favour of William, Thane of Cawdor, by Alexander, 

Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles 531 

Charter by Alexander of Isla, Earl of Ross, in favour oi Alexander, Earl 

of Huntly 532 

Charter by Alexander of Isla, Earl of Roes, to Mackintosh . . , 533 

CONTEN'fS. Xxl. 

Confirmation by James II. of Charter bji- the Earl of to John 

Ski'imgeom-e ........... 534 

Charter of the Bailliary of Lochaber by Alexander of Isla, Earl of Ross, to 

Malcolm Mackintosh 535 

Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, to the Master 

of Sutherland ........... 535 

Grant of Kilkerran Church to Paisley Abbey, by John of Isla, Earl of 

Ross and Lord of the Isles ......... 536 

The Clan Macinnes , 537 

Precept of Sasine in favour of William, Thane of Cawdor, by John of Isla, 

Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles ....... 537 

Precept by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, in favour of Thomas of Dingwall . 538 
Precept of Sasine in favour of John Munro of Fowlis by John of Isia, Earl 

of Ross and Lord of the Isles . . . . . . . .539 

Charter to Donald Coi-batt by John of Isla, Earl of Ross .... 539 

Confirmation by James III. of Charter to Thomas, younger of Dingwall, 

by John of Isla, Earl of Ross 541 

Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to the Abbey of Fearn . . . 541 
Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to his brother, Celestine . . . 543 
Confirmation by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, of the lands of Innermerky to 

William of Cawdor . ......... 545 

Charter of John of Isla, Earl of Ross ....... 545 

Confirmation by James III. of Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to 

Thomas Cuming 546 

Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to John Davidson .... 546 

Deed by Donald Balloch Macdonald 548 

Armorial Bearings of the Lords of the Isles ..,,,. 548 
Commission to the Earl of Lennox to carry through the forfeiture of the 

Earl of Ross 550 

Articles of Agreement between James III. and John of Isla, Lord of the 

Isles 553 

Charter by James III. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles .... 564 
Charter by James III. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles .... 556 
Confirmation by James III. of Charter by Alexander of Isla, Earl of Ross, 

to Walter Ogilvy 557 

Confirmation by James III. of Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to 

John Davidson ........... 557 

Charter by James III. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles .... 559 

Charter by James III. to John of Isla, Lord of the Isles .... 560 

Confirmation by James III. of Charter by John of Isla, Lord of the Isles, 

to Alexander Lesly . . . . . . . . .561 

Confirmation by James III. of Charter by John of Isla, Lord of the Isles, 

to John Davidson .......... 562 

Confirmation by James IV. of Cliarter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to 

the Captain of Clan Chattan ........ 562 

Confirmation by James IV. of Charter by John of Isla, Earl of Ross, to 

JIughof Sleat 563 

Confirmation by James IV. of Charter by Alexander of Isla, Lord of the 

Isles, to Macueill of Barra 563 



Confirmation b}- James IV. of Charters l>y the Lords of the Isles to the 

Abbey of Saddell .564 

Confirmation by James IV. of Charter by Roderick, the son of Reginald . 565 
Confirmation by James IV. of a Charter of John, Lord of the Isles, of the 

I'atronage of Kilberry Church 565 

Charter of Modification to the Bishop of Lismore 565 

Poem on the Lords of the Isles, hy O'Heiuia ...... 566 

Poem on the Macdonalds, by Gillecallum Mac-an-Ollaimh. . . . 566 

Poem on John of Isla, Lord of the Isles 567 

Poem on Angus Og Macdonald, by John of Knoydart .... 568 
Poem on John, Lord of the Isles, and Angus, his son, by Gillecallum 

Mac-an-Ollaimh ........... 509 

1700 MS. on the Marriage of John of Isla 570 

1700 MS. on the Marriage of Angus Og 570 



Gaelic Charter by Donald, Lord of the Isles, 1408 1 

Dun Aonghais, North Uist 16 

Dun Torquil, North Uist 16 

Ruins of Saddell Monastery, the Burial-place of Somerled ... 54 

Seal of Reginald, son of Somerled ........ 64 

Kilkerran Loch, Kintyre ......... 65 

Fac-simile of Letter of Angus Og, Lord of the Isles, to Edward I., 1301 . 80 

Fac-simile of Letter by Angus Mor and Alexander, Lords of the Isles, 

to Edward 1 82 

Seal of Alexander, Lord of the Isles, and Fac-simile of Superscription . 88 

Saddell Castle 92 

Angus Og at Bannockburn, 1314 96 

Finlaggan Castle 101 

Tombstone of Angus Og of Islay, and Seal of Angus Mor . , .102 

Aros Castle, Mull 104 

Ruins of Borve Castle, Benbecula . . . , . . . .117 

Ruined Keep of Ardthornish Castle .*...., 126 

Castle Tirrim 128 

Shield of the Lord of the Isles . . . . ' . . .136 

Battle of Harlaw, 1411 160 

Battle of Inverlochy, 1431 184 

Inverlochy Castle 192 

Sigillum Alexaudri de Yle, Domini Insularum et Rossie .... 199 

Armorial Bearings of the Lord of the Isles ...... 208 '""^ 

Fac-simile of Writ appointing English Commissioners to treat with John, 

Earl of Ross, at Ardthornish, Rotuli Scotia?, 1461 .... 233 

Armorial Bearings of the Lord of the Isles ...... 272 ^ 

Fac-simile of Signatures of John Carswell and Archibald Macgillivray . 336 
Fac-simile of Donald Dubh's Letter to Henry VIIL, 1545 . . .344 

Ruins of Knock Castle, Sleat ......... 352 

Signatures to Agreement between Henry VIIL and Deputies of Donald 

Dubh 382 

Fac-simile of Signatures of the Island Barons to the Commission from 

the Lord of the Isles of Scotland to treat with the King of England 384 

Part of the Ruins of Saddell Monastery 459 

Abbey Church, loua 464 

Ruins of Oronsay Priory .......... 470 

Ruins of St Mary's and St Columba's Churches, Howmore, South Uist . 472 

^Yindow of St Columba's Church, Morveru 476 

Celtic Cross at Morvern 477 

Ruins of Trinity Temple, Carinish, North Uist 480 

Charter by John, Lord of the Isles, 1476 . . . beginning of Appendices 


Macdonald of the Isles, The Right Hon. The Lady, Armadale 

Castle, Skye. 
Atholl, His Grace The Duke of, Blair Castle, Blair-Atholl. 
D'Oyley, The Most Hon. The Marchioness {nee Macdonald), Paris 

(3 copies). 
Antrim, The Right Hon. The Earl of, Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim. 
Lovat, The Right Hon. The Lord, Beaufort Castle, Inverness-shire. 
Macdonald, The Hon. Hugh J. (heir to the British Barony of 

Macdonald of EarnsclifFe), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. 
Macdonald of Clanranald, Admiral Sir Reginald, 1a Ovington 

Square, London (3 copies). 
Aylmer Morley, Mrs, Whiterdine, Founhope, Herefordshire. 
Bain, James, Esq., chief librarian, Public Library, Toronto. 
Barret, F. T., Esq., Mitchell Library, Glasgow. 
Barron, James, Esq., Courier Ofhce, Inverness. 
Bethell, W., Esq., Rise Park, Hull. 
Blair, Sheriff, Ardross Terrace, Inverness. 
Buchanan, A. W., Esq., Polmont. 
Cameron, Donald, Esq., Lochgorm, Inverness. 
Cameron, Diuican, Esq., Fettes, Muir of Ord. 
Cazenove, C. D., Esq., bookseller, London. 
Clark, Colonel, of Ballindoun, Ballindoun House, Beauly. 
Clark, G. T., Esq., London. 
Cooke, Mrs, Raeburn, Boscombe, Bournemouth. 
Cunninghame, John, Esq. of Balgownie, Culross. 
Darroch, Duncan, Esq. of Torridon. 
Dow, The Rev. John, Manse of Knockbain, Munlochy. 
Drayton, Mrs, Gobborn Park, Lanes. 
Ellice, C. H., Esq., Brompton, London. 
Fletcher, J. Douglas, Esq. of Rosehaugh. 

Gibson, The Rev. John Mackenzie, 22 Regent Terrace, Edinburgh. 
Hay, Colin, Esq., Ardbeg, Islay. 

Henderson, George, Esq., Ph.D., 192 Morningside Road, Edinburgh. 
Macalister, Major C. B., of Gleubarr, Kintyre. 


Macallister, James, Esq., wine merchant, Ballymeua, Ireland. 

MacConnell, Wm., Esq., Knockdolian, Colraonell, Ayrshire. 

M'Crindle, John, Esq , Aiichinlee, Ayr. 

Macdonald, Alexander, Esq. of Balranald and Edenwood, Spring- 
field, Fife. 

Macdonald, The Rev. Alex., Napanse, Ontario, Canada. 

Macdonald, A., Esq., Commercial Bank House, Thurso. 

Macdonald, A. W., Esq., Invernevis, Fort- William. 

Macdonald, Andrew, Esq., solicitor, Inverness. . . 

Macdonald, A. R., Esq., Ord, Isleornsay, Skye. 

Macdonald, Captain Allan, of Waternish, Fasach Hoiise, Portree 
(2 copies). 

Macdonald, Allan, Esq., LL.D., Gleuarm, Co. Antrim. 

Macdonald, Andrew H., Esq., of Calrossie, Rogart Manse. 

Macdonald, Angus, Esq., Cunainbmitag, Benbecnla. 

Macdonald, Colonel, of Treaslan, Portree, Skye. 

Macdonald, Charles, Esq., 247 Fifth Avenue, New York. 

Macdonald, Charles, Esq., 17 Oswald Street, Glasgow. 

Macdonald, Dr C. R., 7 Wellington Square, Ayr. 

Macdonald, Charles D., Esq., Rosario, Argentine Repnblic. 

Macdonald, The Rev. (John, Rogart Manse, Sutherlandshirc. 

Macdonald, The Rev. Donald, minister of N. Uist, Lochmaddy. 

Macdonald, The Rev. D. J., Killean Alanse, Muasdale, Kintyre. 

Macdonald, Donald, Esq. of Ramnierscales, Locherbie. 

Macdonald, D. T., Esq., Calmult, Michigan, U.S.A. 

Macdonald, Duncan, Esq., 2 Heriot Row, Edinburgh. 

Macdonald, E., Esq., 39 Donegal Place, Belfast. 

Macdonald, The Rev. Finlay R., The Manse, Coupar-Angus. 

Macdonald, Henry M., Esq., 34 Broad Street, New York City, U.S.A. 

Macdonald, H. A., Esq., 370 Great Western Road, Glasgow. 

Macdonald, Harry, Esq., Viewfield, Portree. 

Macdonald, H. L., Esq. of Dunach, Dunach House, Oban. 

Macdonald, The Rev. Fred. Charles, M.A., vicar of St Hilda's, 

Macdonald, James, Esq., W.S., Edinburgh. 

Macdonald, James, Esq., Moss Cottage, Benbecula. 

Macdonald, J. J., Esq., 42 York Place, Edin})urgh. 

Macdonald, John, Esq., Keppoch, Roy-Bridge. 

Macdonald, J. M., Esq., Harley Street, London. 

Macdonald, Colonel John A., of Glcnaladale, Glenfinan. 

Macdonald, Dr Keith Norman, Gesto Hospital, Skye. 

Macdonald, The Rev. Mosse, M.A., St Aidau's College, Birkenhead. 


Macdonald, Peter, Esq., Carlton Place, Glasgow. 
Macdonald, Admiral Robertson, Edinburgh. 
Macdonald, R. M. Livingstone, Esq., Flodigarry, Skye. 
Macdonald, Ronald Mosse, Esq., The Homestead, Datchet. 
Macdonald, The Rev. R., minister of South Uist, Lochboisdale. 
Macdonald, Roderick, Esq., 17 Oswald Street, Glasgow. 
Macdonald, Stuart Hugh, Esq., The Homestead, Datchet. 
Macdonald, T., Esq., H.M.B.'s Supreme Court, Shanghai, China. 
Macdonald, The Rev. Thomas Mosse, M.A., Canon of Lincoln and 

Rector of Kersal. 
Macdonald, W. R., Esq., 1 Forres Street, Edinburgh. 
Macdonald, The Hon. W. J., Armadale House, Vancouver, British 

Macdonald, Wm. M., 2nd Batt. Q.O. Cameron Highlanders. 
Macdonald, Miss, Barnfield Hill, Southampton. 
Macdonald, Miss Jone, of Milland Place, Sussex. 
Macdonell, Dr. D., 17 Crumlea Road, Belfast. 
Macdonnell, Hercules H. G., Esq., Barrister, 4 Roby Place, 

Kingstown, Ireland. 
Macdonnell, James, Esq. of Kilsharvan and Murlough, Ireland. 
Macdonnell, Colonel John, of Kilmore, County Antrim. 
Macdonnell, The Very Rev. J. Cotter, D.D., Misterton Rectory, 

Macdonell, Miss L. C. R., of Glengarry, Mavis Bank, Rothesay. 
Macdonell, Mrs, of Keppoch, 86 Cambridge Street, Eccleston 

Square, London. 
MacDougall, E. A., Esq., 14 High Street, Eccleston Square, 

London, S.W. 
MacDowall, The Rev. James, The Manse, Rosemarkie. 
Macgregor, D. R., Esq., Melbourne, Victoria. 
Maclnnes, Lt.-Colonel John, Glendaruel, Argyleshire. 
Mackay, Eneas, Esq., Stirling. 
Mackay, John, Esq., C.E., Hereford (2 copies). 
Mackay, Wm., Esq., solicitor, Inverness. 

Mackenzie, Colonel Burton, of Kilcoy, Kilcoy Castle, Muir of Ord. 
Mackenzie, H. H., Esq., Balelone, Lochmaddy. 
Mackenzie, The Rev. K. A., LL.D., Manse of Kingussie. 
Mackenzie, Thomas, Esq., Daluaine. 
Mackenzie, W. Dalziel, Esq. of Farr, Inverness-shire. 
Mackintosh, Charles Eraser, Esq. of Drummond. 
Maclean, Alex. Scott, Esq., Greenock. 
Maclean, Charles, Esq., Milton, South Uist, Lochboisdale. 


MacLaverty, Grteme A., Esq. of Chanting Hall, Hamilton. 

Macleay, Murdo, Esq., Broom Cottage, Ullapool. 

Macleod, Colonel John X., of Kintarbert and Saddell, Saddell 
Castle, Campbeltown. 

Macleod, Norman, Esq., Gaelic bookseller, The Momid, Edinburgh. 

Macrae, The Rev. Alex., Emmanuel School, Wandsworth Common, 
London, S.W. 

Macrae, The Rev. G. W. B., Manse of Cross, Stornoway. 

Macrae, John, Esq., late of Langash, North Uist. 

Macquarrie, The Rev. A. J., Manse of Ferintosh. 

Martin, Adam W., Esq., Knock, Belfast. 

Martin, Major Martin, R.E., Howwood, Renfrewshire. 

Mainwaring, Charles, Esq., Feugh Cottage, Banchory, Aberdeen. 

Millar, Miss J. Macdonald, Courthill, Hermitage Gardens, Edin- 

Moreton, Lt. -Colonel A. H. Macdonald, Benbridge, Isle of Wight. 

Morrison, Dr Alex. C, Lochside Cottage, Larkhall. 

Noble, John, Esq., Inverness (9 copies). 

Pearson, Dr Archd., 4 Middleton Terrace, Ibrox, Glasgow. 

Pender-Smith, Dr J., Dingwall. 

Perrins, Mrs Dyson, Davenham, Malvern. 

Pryor, Mrs, Armadale, Cecil Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth. 

Rankin, The Rev. E. A., B.D., Kilmorack Manse, Beauly, 

Rawlins, The Rev. J. Arthur, M.A., St. Andrew's Vicarage, 
Willesden, London. 

Roberts, Mrs Vernon, D\inloskin, Kersal, Manchester. 

Ryan, Mrs James, Glenomera, Cejdon. 

Sinclair, The Ven. Wm. Macdonald, Archdeacon of London, The 
Chapter House, St. Paul's, London. 

Sykes, Harold P., Esq., 2nd Dragoon Giiards. 

Tolmie, The Rev. A. M. C, M.A., The Manse, Campbeltown. 

Yule, Miss A. F., Tarradale House, Muir of Ord. 




Difficulties of the Subject. — Primitive Populations. — Picts and 
Dalriads. — Union of Dalriada and Pictavia. — The Norse 
Occupation. — Kingdom of Man and the Isles. — Traces of the 
Norseman. — The Gall-Gael. 

The descent and early history of the Clan Donald, 
like those of the other Highland clans, are involved 
in much obscurity. From the materials at the 
disposal of the historian, it is difficult, if not impos- 
sible, to weave anything like a clear, reliable, or 
consistent narrative. Fact and fiction are so often, 
mixed up together, and tradition so frequently con- 
flicts with what is regarded as authentic history, 
that the task of the historian sometimes assumes 
great, perhaps unmanageable, proportions. The 
Clan Donald, however, occupy so conspicuous and 
important a position in the annals of the country, 
that any attempt to throw further light upon its 
rise and history may be regarded as worthy of 
commendation, even should it meet with but partial 

The origin of this Clan is bound up wiiii some of 
the most important questions of Scottish ethnology. 
In order, therefore, to lead up to a more or less 
clear conception of the subject, it seems desirable 



that we should have recourse to the scanty materials 
available for the construction of a history of the 
early inhabitants of the country. The history 
of Great Britain, so far as it has been written, 
commences with the Koman occupation, about the 
middle of the first century. But archaeologists, 
going back into the dim and hoary past, have found 
vestiges of a race that occupied the land at a period 
long prior to recorded time. Traces have been dis- 
covered of a prehistoric non-Aryan race, resembling 
the Iberians and the Aquitani, a race short statured, 
long skulled, dark haired, and dark complexion ed ; 
that lived in caves, and buried their dead in caves 
and chambered tombs ; the representatives of the 
Stone Age, whose polished stone weapons of various 
kinds are the treasure and delight of the antiquary. 
They were probably the same race as the ancient 
tin miners of Cornwall, to whom Herodotus makes 
reference, and who, from their practice of carrying 
bags as receptacles for the metal, are supposed to 
have been the Ji7'-holg of Irish mythology. To. them 
also do we owe the so-called Druidical circles ; 
barrows, and other stone remains which are found 
scattered over European lands ; silent witnesses of 
the oldest phase of religious culture of which our 
Western lands bear any trace. 

Long before the historical period a new wave, a 
Celtic Aryan race, Gaidhels or Goidels, visited our 
island, and pushed the aboriginal race into the more 
distant and inaccessible mountainous regions to the 
north and west. They spoke a language which is 
in our day represented by the Manx Gaelic and the 
Gaelic of Scotland and Ireland. These in their turn 
were followed and ])ressed northwards and west- 
ward by another Celtic Aryan race, the Britons or 


Brythons, whose language now survives only in 
Wales. The Gaidhels were probably bronze users, 
while the Brythonic invaders — as a later wave — 
were versed in the use of iron tools and weapons. 

When the Romans came to Britain the country 
was more or less divided among the fore-mentioned 
races, and this continued very much the case until 
the close of the Koman occupation in 410 a.d. 

Confining our attention to Scotland, we find that 
Roman historians make mention of two nations 
occupying that land in the second century, whom 
they denominate the Caledonii and the Meatae. 
These names in the course of time disappear, and 
are succeeded by the Picti and Attacotti. Such a 
variety of names is perplexing to the historian, 
but, notwithstanding much ingenuity displayed by 
various writers, there is every reason to believe that 
they are all applicable to the one Goedelic race, 
which, as already stated, followed the pre-historic 
race as the predominant occupiers of the North of 
Scotland. These people, properly designated as the 
Alban Gael, though territorially divided into two 
or more provinces, and speaking probably slightly 
different dialects of the same tongue, were yet in all 
racial characteristics one. The best authorities are 
agreed that they were homogeneous with the 
Cruithne of Ireland, where, as in Scotland, they 
succeeded the Firbolg, and that their language, 
around which such fierce controversy has been 
waged, was an archaic type of our modern Scottish 
Gaelic. The date of their advent to Scotland is of 
course a question of great obscurity, though in all 
probability it must have been some time between 
500 and 300 B.C. During a period of nearly 400 
years this brave race baffled in many a red field the 


mighty legionaries of Eome, and though time and 
again they were driven, by the force of numbers 
and superior disciphne, to their native fastnesses, 
they remained unconquered. 

For 200 years after the evacuation of Britain by 
the Romans, the history of Scotland is almost a 
blank, and when, in the beginning of the seventh 
century, the light of history again dawns upon us, 
we find four distinct peoples occupying as many 
different districts of our present Scotland. The 
Picts or Alban Gael have to all appearance absorbed 
and assimilated, or at any rate converted to their 
own speech and social customs, the non- Aryan 
people they found in the land, and are now the 
predominating race. The Britons occupy the 
region of Strathclyde, while two new races, the 
Angles and the Dalriadic Scots, have made settle- 
ments ^f their own. The Alban Gael occupied 
the country north of the Firth of Forth ; the 
Britons the region of Strathclyde, and thence 
south to Cumberland ; the Angles that fi'om 
the Forth to the Humber ; and the Scots of Dalriada 
the country afterwards known as Oirirghaidheal, 
Islay, a part of Mull and some of the lesser Southern 
Isles. ^ These four races are on the whole the 
materials out of which the modern Scottish nation 
has been formed, and it is clear that even the 
Lowland Scot has in him as much of the Celt 
as of the Teuton. As regards the Iberian or 
pre-historic i)opulation, it is probable that the type, 
though absorbed as to language and social life 
into the larger and more })owerful organism of 
the Celt, yet in its physical characteristics still 
survives in the small, dark -haired, black-eyed 

^ Vide Map of Four Kingdoms in Skene's Celtic Scotland. 


natives of parts of the north-west of Scotland, as 
it is also to be found in Wales, as well as in Ireland 
west of the Shannon. Every nation is more or less 
a blend of several nationalities ; but nowhere is this 
more marked than in the Scottish Highlands, where 
there seems to be more of an admixture of races 
than in any country in Europe of the same size. 

As already indicated, the Picts or Alban Gael 
occupied by far the greater portion of the country. 
To the north of the Firth of Forth they were 
divided into the Northern and Southern Picts ; the 
former holding the country north of the Grampians, 
and the latter inhabiting the region from that 
mountain range south to the Firth of Forth. Not 
only so, but in the counties of Wigtown and Kirk- 
cudbright there was a settlement of what were 
called the Niduarian Picts, and in the debateable 
region south of the Firth of Forth they had settle- 
ments in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, and have 
left traces of their presence in the name of the 
Pentland Hills. 

The founders of the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada 
were also an offshoot of the Goedelic branch of the 
Celtic tree. Both in Scotland and Ireland they are 
found appearing at a period subsequent to the 
Cruithne. The kingdoms of the Picts and of the 
Scots seem, in fact, to have been two collateral 
Gaelic nationalities, with well-defined dynasties and 
territories, embracing regions in both lands. Most 
writers are agreed that the colony of Irish Scots 
settled permanently in Argyll about the beginning 
of the sixth century. That for several centuries 
prior to that date there had been Irish immigrations 
to the Scottish coast on a greater or lesser scale 
seems highly probable. Indeed, when we bear in 


mind the nearness of Kintyre to the North of 
Ireland, intercourse must have been frequent in very 
early times. During the Koman occupation mention 
is frequently made by historians of the wandering 
Irish, who, like the Scandinavians of later days, 
infested the coastlands of Scotland, and at times 
carried their predatory incursions into the heart of 
the country. Irish historians have sometimes proved 
imaginatis^e guides in threading the mazes of these 
early centuries. Yet there is nothing inherently 
improbable in the statement that the first Dalriadic 
settlers were brought over to Scotland in the middle 
of the third century by Cairbre Riada ; meaning the 
Ruadh or red-haired, after whom a territory in the 
North of Ireland, the Houtes and Glens, derives its 
name.^ The centre of these early settlements was 
Kintyre, whose ancient name of Dalruadhain was a 
form of the Irish Dalriada. The theory that the 
King of the Alban Gaels or Picts, finding his 
kingdom harassed by the Britons of Strath clyde on 
the one hand, and the Angles on the other, invited 
the Dalriads to Argyll, seems, all things considered, 
a highly probable one. They were not destined, 
however, to keep the peace long with any of the 
neighbouring nationalities, and their future relations 
with the Alban Gael is a long story of strife and 

When we come to the middle of the fifth century 
we stand upon firmer historical ground. About that 
time, perhaps a little later. Ere, King of Dalriada, 
died, leaving three sons, Fergus, Lorn, and Angus. 
A dispute arose as to the succession, when, according 
to the Celtic law of Tanistry, Olchu, their father's 
brother, assumed the sceptre, to the exclusion of 

' According to the Anuals of the Four Masters, in 506 a.d. 


Fergus, the eldest son. Thereupon Fergus, with 
his two brothers, crossed the Irish Channel, after 
obtaining the blessing of St Patrick,^ and landed on 
the coast of Argyll, with, it is said, only one hundred 
and fifty followers. From this period onwards the 
history of Argyll becomes the history of the Scots 
Dalriads, and from the fact that we find no record 
of opposition to their settlement, we may infer that 
the inhabitants must have been largely recruited 
from the same Irish stock in former times. The 
three brothers divided the country into three 
districts ; Lorn occupying the district which 
bears his name, as well as the greater portion of 
Argyll, while Angus acquired the lands of Islay and 
Jura, and Fergus, the eldest, possessed Kin tyre, 
and on the death of Lorn succeeded him in his exten- 
sive dominions. All three were dependent upon the 
Irish kingdom of Dalriada. This subjection to the 
parent stock continued for more than sixty years, 
and until the time of Aidan, when finally, by the 
intervention of St Columba, it was agreed at the 
great Council of Drumceat to free the Scots Dalriads 
from paying the customary tribute, thus making 
them an independent nation. It was stipulated 
that in the time of war the Scots Dalriads must 
assist their Irish allies. Aidan thus became the first 
King of Dalriada, and held Court at Dunadd, which 
became the capital of the new kingdom, none of his 
predecessors having attained a higher dignity than 
that of Toiseach, or chief ruler of a tribe. 

After the period at which we have now arrived, 
it is unnecessary to follow in detail, at anyrate at 
this stage of our work, the fortunes or the genea- 
logies of the Dalriad,ic kings or their relations to 

^ Albauic Duau, 


other Scottish iiationahties. Durii-kg the period 
leadint,'- up to the coiisohdatioii of Scottish Dalriada, 
as Avell as for some time thereafter, there were the 
usual internal broils ; Kintyre against Lorn, and 
both, singly or together, against the Britons of 
Strathclyde. Much of the civil discord sprang from 
the operation of the Celtic law of succes&ion, in 
which direct hereditary descent often conflicted with 
the will and interests of the tribe. In time the 
descendants of Angus dropped out of sight, and his 
family became extinct in the male line, but his 
grand-daughter having married the grandson of 
Fergus Mor, his possessions were added to those of 
the reigning house of Dalriada. 

The light of Scottish history waxes very dim 
during the sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries, but 
it seems to fail us altogether in the ninth, when 
there is in truth a darkness that can be felt. It 
would appear, however, that up to the year 733 a.d. 
there was no serious collision between the Dalriads 
and their neighbours the Alban Gael. But in that 
year we find it recorded in the Annals of Ulster 
that Angus Mac Fergus, the King of the Alban 
Gael, invaded the territory of the Dalriads with a 
powerful army, and, after a series of sanguinary 
combats, defeated them. He subdued them finally 
in the year 741, and added Dalriada as a province 
to his kingdom. The Annals of Ulster of that year 
record " the downfall of the Dalriads by Angus Mac 
Fergus." This Angus Mac Fergus was the greatest 
of all the kings of the Alban Gael, if the Irish 
Annals are to be relied on, and it was he who laid 
the foundation of the future kingdom of present 


From the year 741 a.d., when Dalriada became 
a province of the Northern Kingdom, to the year 
843, Scottish history is intensely obscure. We are 
not disposed to adopt either of the extreme views 
that have been advanced by writers as to the 
circumstances leading to the elevation of Kenneth 
MacAlpin in that year to the throne of a united 
realm. On the one hand the older view, that his 
accession was the result of conquest, in the course 
of which the Pictish race was annihilated by the 
Dalriadic Scots, is an absurd and thrice-exploded 
historical fiction. The paternity of this view is 
undoubtedly to be traced to the monkish writers of 
St Andrews, who inserted it in their Register of 
that See in the year 1251, or 400 years after the 
pretended event. John of Fordun, that prince of 
fabulists, gave further currency to that and other 
myths in his Chronicle, which he finished about the 
year 1400 a.d. Other monkish writers followed in 
the same vein, and the more the ball of fable rolled 
the more it gathered volume, until it became at last 
a veritable planet in the ecclesiastical nebula. 

From other sources, such as Nennius, the Saxon 
Chronicler of 891 a.d., the Welsh Triads, the Irish 
Annals, and the Albanic Duan, it seems undoubted 
that Kenneth MacAlpm's succession to the Pictish 
Kingdom was based on his descent from the Pictish 
sovereigns. Ungus, King of the Southern Picts, 
had a sister Ungusia, who married Aycha IV., King 
of Scots, and their son Alpin, who succeeded his 
father early in the ninth century, was thus con- 
nected in the female line with the royal house of 
Pictavia. Succession through a female was an 
ackRowledged principle of Pictish descent, and when 
the throne of the Picts fell vacant, Kenneth, the 


son of Al^^in, laid claim to it. The Southern Picts 
as a nation acquiesced in an arrangement which, 
while it gave them a king of their own royal 
lineage, made at the same time for peace and union 
between races that had so much in common. 

On the other hand we believe it to be equally 
mistaken, to maintain, as Dr Skene has done, that, 
when Kenneth MacAlpin ascended the united 
throne, Dalriada had sunk into utter insignificance, 
and ceased to have any existence as a separate 
kingdom. It is difficult to speak definitely of a 
time so historically dark, and we cannot say 
whether Dalriada regained to the full extent its 
former independence. But it seems clear that, 
however depressed the fortunes of this kingdom 
may have been, a royal descent was maintained 
from father to son until the ruling family of Dal- 
riada was able to provide a king for the new and 
united realm of Alban. 

If the Picts as a distinctive race seem to pass 
out of history after 842 a.d., their disappearance is 
apparent and not real. The King of the Dalriads 
became the ruler of the united people, and the 
Dalriads were consequently regarded as the govern- 
ing and presumably the dominant race. The union 
further welded togetlier nations similar in language, 
customs, and social institutions, nations that quickly 
and easily amalgamated into one national system. 
Yet, though the two races became one nation, the 
actual fusion was only partial. The Picts of the 
Central and Northern Highlands were little if at all 
aftected by the union politically,^ socially, or racially, 
and hence we may regard the Highlanders of Perth- 

^ The rict« north of the Grauiiiiaut; were not of course included in the 
new Kingtluni. 


shire and the interior of Inverness- shire as the 
purest representatives of the ancient GaeUc stock 
of Caledonia, On the other iiand, the Dah'iads 
remained to a large extent a distinct people within 
their own territory of Oirthirghael. 

The Islands as well as the Highlands of Scotland 
were in historic times originally inhabited by the 
primitive stock of Caledonia, the Picts, or Alban 
Gael, with probably an admixture in some districts 
of the prehistoric Iberian population. The Hebrides, 
however, owing to their insular position, were from 
the beginning of the ninth century subject to con- 
ditions which had a far-reaching effect upon their 
relations to the mainland of Scotland. Before the 
union of the Alban Gael and the Dalriadic Scots, 
and as far back as 794 a.d., we find from the 
Annals of Ulster that " the Islands of Britain were 
ravaged by the Gentiles." Indeed, we can gather 
from hints somewhat dark and vague that, long 
before they had effected permanent settlements in 
the Isles, these Gentiles or Scandinavian pirates, 
whose galleys swept the northern seas, were the 
scourge and terror of the Hebrideans, More defin- 
itely tliey were Danes and Norwegians, known in 
the Highlands under the designation respectively of 
Duhhgall and Fionnghall, or both together as Loch- 
lanaich. The Western Isles, the theatre of their 
piratical ravages, came to be known to the Gael as 
Imise-Gcdl, or the Islands of the Strangers, to 
themselves as the Sudereys, or Southern Isles, to 
distinguish them from the Nordereys or Orkneys. 

The Danes were earlier in the order of invasion, 
and the special animosity they displayed in the 
ruthless destruction of religious houses like lona and 
Lindisfarne, and the consequent destruction of 


precious historical records, are traceable to well- 
known contemporary causes. The cruelties which 
the Emperor Charlemagne inflicted upon the Pagan 
inhabitants of Saxony and North Germany lired the 
Gothic nations with hatred towards Christianity, 
and explained the special form which the incursions 
of the Danes assumed. During the niiith century 
these sea rovers kept the Islands and the Western 
seaboard in a state of perpetual turmoil impossible 
either to conceive or describe. 

When watclifires burst across the main 
From Rona, and Uist, and Skye, 
To tell that the ships of the Dane 
And the red-haired slayer were nigh ; 
Our Islesmen rose from their slumbers, 
And buckled on their arms, 
But few, alas ! were their nunibei's 
To Lochlin's mailed swarms ; 
And the blade of the bloody Norse 
Has filled the shores of the Gael 
With many a floatiur corse 
And many a widow's wail. 

The Danes, however, never made settlements in 
the Scottish Isles, whose history for three hundred 
years, from about 800 A.D., is bound up with the 
Norwegian invasion. This invasion caused the 
erection of Norwegian kingdoms in "reland and in 
the Western Isles. The Isle of Man and the 
Southern Isles of Scotland were the centre of the 
Norwegian settlements in the north-west of Eui'ope. 
From these islands, which were peculiarly adapted 
as strongholds for the Vikings, whose strength lay 
in their large and well-built ships, the tide of 
invasion flowed in various directions, and the sur- 
viving records of the age derive much of their 
interest from the adventures of these kings of the 


In considering the origin of this. Norwegian 
invasion, we find tliat it is largely accounted for by 
a political revolution which occurred in Norway, 
There, as elsewhere, the tendency of things has lain 
in the absorption of petty nationalities in a larger 
imperial unity. In or aljout the year 875 a.d., 
according to the sagas, Harold Harfager, or the 
Fair-haired, one of the grea.test and bravest on the 
long roll of Scandinavian heroes, having suppressed 
the power of a number of minor chiefs, established 
himself as King of the whole of Norway. Many of 
the independent petty princes or jarls opposed his 
pretensions and disputed his title to the crown. 
Hather than submit to his rule, and fearing his 
vengeance, some of these princes took refuge in the 
Western Isles, and, uniting their forces there, they 
began to harass Harold's domains. Exasperated by 
these frequent incursions, Harold resolved to pursue 
his enemies to their retreat in the Western Isles. 
He prosecuted the campaign with great vigour, and 
his progress was so irresistible that in a short time 
he made a total conquest of Man, the Hebrides, 
Shetland and Orkney, including Caithness. It is 
difficult even now ; how much more so must it have 
been in that remote age ? to preserve the loyalty of 
a colony of diverse races so far from the imperial 
centre ; and the difficulty was continually arising 
during the Norwegian occupation of the Isles. The 
very next year after the conquest we find the Isles 
in open rebellion against the royal authority. The 
Norwegian sagas differ as to the details of the re- 
conquest of the Isles. According to some, such as 
the Zandnama, Harold dispatched a trusty cousin 
and councillor, the happy possessor of the euphoni- 
ous name of Ketil Flatnose, to restore peace and 


good government among his island subjects. This 
the flat-nosed one very soon succeeded in doing, but 
he accomplished more : he declared himself King of 
the Isles. According to another and more probable 
version of the story — the Lax?ela-saga — Ketil 
emigrated from Norway to the Isles, not as the 
viceroy of Harold, but because, like the other minor 
potentates of Norway, he was obnoxious to him and 
unable to resist his power. All the accounts, how^- 
ever, agree in saying that Ketil exercised something 
like supreme power in the Isles during the remainder 
of his life. Flatnose was followed by a succession of 
kings, though not of his owai line, whose identity on 
the broad plain of history is not easily discernible in 
the absence of any law of hereditary succession to 
guide us. To attempt to bring historical order out 
of the chaos in which that succession is involved 
passes the wit of man. Sufiice it to say that these 
kings or rulers of the Isles, with few interruptions, 
followed one another, either from Norway or Orkney 
or from Man or Ireland, until Man and the Isles 
were finally added to Scotland by purchase in the 
latter half of the thirteenth century. After the 
defeat of Haco at Largs, and his subsequent death 
at Kirkwall, in Orkney, his son and successor, 
Magnus, entered into a treaty with Alexander III. 
of Scotland, whereby the latter acquired Man and 
the Isles for the sum of 400 merks sterling, with the 
additional annual ])ayment to Norway of 100 merks 
sterling, to be paid in the Church of St Magnus in 

It is difficult to give anything like a true or 
faithful picture of the condition of the Western 
Isles during the Norse occupation. It does not seem 
at all clear that the character of the Celtic 


population, or its social institutions any more than 
its language, underwent any palpable or material 
alteration. Some admixture of Teutonic blood may 
be inferred from the strongly-marked Scandinavian 
features sometimes seen in the inhabitants of the 
Hebrides, especially in the Island of Lewis. The 
native Celt largely predominated all along, but it is 
undoubted that the blood of the brave old Vikings 
courses through the veins of some of the best types 
of the Scottish Highlander. It is also permissible 
to think that this Teutonic strain, with its 
characteristic tenacity of purpose and sustained 
power of effort, combined with Celtic brilliancy and 
emotional fervour, differentiates the Highlanders of 
the West from more purely Celtic nations, and 
places them, both in war and peace, in the front rank 
of Euro])ean races. Considering, however, that the 
Norsemen and the Celts of the Isles seem to have 
lived on terms of mutual friendship after the time of 
Harold Harfager, it is singular that the former did 
not leave a deeper or more permanent impression. 
The explanation probably is to be found very much 
in the words of Gregory, with whom in this matter 
we are disposed to agree, " that as in all cases of 
conquest the change in the population must have 
been most perceptible in the higher ranks, owing to 
the natural tendency of invaders to secure their 
new possessions where practicable by matrimonial 
alliances with the natives." In some respects, how- 
ever, the Norseman has left his mark upon the 
Western Isles. While the language of the people 
was preserved unaffected by the invader, the place 
names both in the Isles and coastlands of Scotland 
bear extensive traces of liis influence. The Celtic 
system of land tenure, which was purely tribal, 


seems to have been largely modified, and the system 
of rent borrowed from the Teuton meets us in the 
farthing-lands, penny-lands, and merklands to be 
found in ancient valuations and conveyances of 
landed property. In the folk-lore of the Hebrides, 
Lochlin and its kings frequently appear ; and 
altogether, in a variety of ways not affecting the 
deeper or more characteristic life of the people, the 
footprints of the Norseman are to be seen. 

Before proceeding to consider the descent of the 
Clan Donald, which we purpose doing in the next 
chapter, it is necessary that we should take note of 
a people called the Gall-Gael, wlioni we liud in the 
reign of Kenneth MacAlpin appearing as the allies 
of the Scandinavian pirates, and joining , them 
everywhere in their depredations. The peculiar 
combination of the word Gall, with Gael as the 
qualitative part of the compoimd, is naturally 
somewhat puzzling to the historian, especially as 
the historical references to these people are neither 
numerous nor distinct. The name Gall has always 
been applied by the Gael to foreigners or strangers, 
to men of different race and language from 
themselves. It was first applied by them to the 
Saxons of Northumbria. The name of Gall-Gael 
was first applied by the Irish to the Picts of 
Galloway, because the inhabitants of Galloway, being 
of the Cruithne or Pictish race, and thus Celtic, had 
for long been under the rule of the Saxon Gall of 
Northumbria, Afterwards the name came to be 
applied to Western Gaels, who, in. their characteristic 
modes of. life, and possibly filso through a fusion of 
races, came to resemble the Scandinavians of the 
Hebrides. They were Galls, that is strangers, in 
t-lie .sense that. they had. no settled homes, and, as 





such, were sea rovers or pirates after the fashion of 
the Scandinavians of Innse-Gcdl. But they we^e 
also Gaels, recruited from various branches of the 
Celtic race, from Pictavia, Dalriada, and Ireland. Tt 
is clear therefore that the Gall- Gael were not a race 
of Gaels hound together by ties of blood and kinship, 
but Gaels whose bond of union was that they were 
engaged in similar jDursuits. But it seems necessary 
also to state that the Gall-Gael apparently received 
their name not alone because the G^el conformed to 
the wild roving habits of the Norse Vikings, but 
because the two were blended in one, and constituted 
one band of sea robbers. This, we think, is clearly 
proved by their being so often referred to as North- 
men. There seems no evidence whatever to show, 
notwithstanding the authority of Dr Skene, that the 
Gall- Gael were a race of Celts with territorial 
dignities or possessions. They were Gaelic pirates 
banded with the Norwegians ; only this and nothing 
more. They aj)pear and flit before us for a time on 
the stage of history, and disappear mysteriously 
without leaving one trace of their identity, neither 
territory nor pedigree, not even one name handed 
down ; merry-dancers on the horizon, phantoms 
which cross our threshold to ruffle the serenity 
of our historical calm. 




Rise of the Kingdom of Alban. — Rise and Growth of English 
Influence. — Feudal Scotland. — Origin of the Clan Donald. — 
Theories on the Subject. — The Dalriadic Origin. — Genealogy 
of the Clan down to Somerled. 

Before introducing upon the historical stage the 
dynasty of Celtic princes, known as the Kings and 
Lords of the Isles, it will conduce to clearness of 
historical perspective if we trace briefly the rise of 
the kingdom of Alban, and its gradual development 
into feudal Scotland. The period in Scottish history 
covered by the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries 
witnessed the growth of this larger imperial unity, 
which commenced to be realised in the reign of 
Kenneth MacAlpin. The new name of Alban, by 
which the Kingdom of Scone came to be known in 
the reign of Donald, the son of Constantino, does 
not appear to have arisen from the addition of any 
new territory acquired since the union of Pictavia 
and Dalriada, and there seems to be no explanation 
of the change, beyond the fact that we find it 
recorded in the Irish Annals for the first time during 
his reign. Thereafter, the Kings were no longer 
designated Rages Pictorum, but Bi Alban, and in 
the Pictish Chronicle Pictavia gives place to 

It does not appear that Northern Pictdom, 
though reckoned nominally a province of Alban, 
ever became fully incorporated with it while it 


retained that name. The relationship between the 
Northern and Southern Picts after the accession 
of Kenneth MacAlpin is exceedingly difficult to 
define. It seems, however, a fair inference from 
the dim history of those ages that the division 
between the two peoples was not merely geo- 
graphical. The union of Dalriada and Southern 
Pictavia would have been regarded with little 
favour by the Picts of the North, especially as 
the accession of the King of Dalriada to the Pictish 
throne gave the Scots the prestige of a dominant 
race, and had the effect of alienating two com- 
munities that were at first homogeneous. Further- 
more, the inroads of the Scandinavian marauders all 
along the coastlands of the Northern Gael stimulated 
the exercise of the law of self-preservation ; threw 
them back upon their own resources ; consolidated 
their organic unity, and welded them more and 
more into a distinct and separate people. During 
the succeeding centuries, and until the unity of the 
Scottish realm was finally accomplished, the North 
presents a scene of conflict and confusion more 
intense, if possible, than is found in other parts 
of North Britain. The struggle for independence 
was long and persistent, and, though more than 
once compelled to yield to the invader, the Northern 
Gael was able to cast off the alien yoke and assert 
his ancient independence. Thus it was that, 
hemmed in on the one hand by Scandinavian 
incursions, and on the other by their neighbours 
and kinsmen from the South, we find the men of 
the North, now under the sway of the Norwegian 
Earls of Orkney, now under the Kings of Alban, 
and at intervals independent of both, under their 
own Mormaors. This state of matters continued 


until, finally, in the reign of David I., the province 
was ceded by conquest to the Scottish Crown. 

We may now briefly indicate the extension of 
the Kingdom of Alban towards the South and East, 
and the causes that moulded it under one feudal 
monarchy. The history of Alban is parallel in many 
respects to that of the Northern Province. Besieged, 
on the one hand, by the Anglo-Saxons of the South 
and East, it lay open, on the other, to the Cumbrians 
of Strathclyde ; while from every point of the 
compass the menacing Scandinavian pressed on. 
From Kenneth MacAlpin to David I., Scottish history 
is a long war of races bent on mutual destruction. 
Finally, the Scoto-Celt proved his imperial spirit by 
giving a Kingdom to Scotland, despite the adverse 
influences that beset him on every hand. Kenneth 
III. acquired the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde, 
and his son, Malcolm II., subjected to his sway the 
Saxon provinces of the South-East, which com- 
prehended Lothian, Berwickshire, and the lower 
part of Teviotdale. Thus, after many birth-throes, 
the ancient realm of Scotia came into being. 

No sooner, however, was the new kingdom estab- 
lished than English influence began to be felt, and 
the conquest, which force of arms could never effect, 
was not unlikely to be accomplished by more silent, 
imperceptible, yet no less powerful, influences. 
Malcolm Canmore had been early attracted by 
the English Court, Avhere, during the misfortunes of 
his youth, he had found a friendly refuge. His 
admiration for England and its people was evinced 
when, from his warlike incursions to Durham and 
Northumberland, he carried back with him large 
numbero of young men and women, whom he settled 
in various parts of his kingdom. His marriage with 


the Saxon Princess Margaret was fraught with many 
consequences to the social and reHgious Hfe of Scot- 
land. The ancient language of the Court, with the 
manners and customs of his fathers, were changed 
by the unpatriotic King, and conformed to the 
English model. Still further to Anglicise his 
country, he offered an asylum to those Saxon 
refugees who were compelled to leave their native 
land during the reign of the persecuting Norman 
Conqueror. With Malcolm, the Saxon importation 
ceased, and Donald Bane, his brother, who, according 
to Celtic law, succeeded him, issued a sentence of 
banishment against all foreigners, and an attempt 
was made to stem the tide of Southern influence, 
and place Celtic culture once more in the ascendant. 
This, however, was only temporarily successful. 
Donald Bane was driven from the throne after a 
short and troubled reign, and the three sons of 
Malcolm Canmore, who followed him in succession, 
were steady supporters of the new order. It was in 
the reign of David L, who occupied the throne from 
1124 to 1153, that the most momentous change took 
place in the civil policy and social life of Scotland. 
David, who had been educated at the Court of 
Henry Beauclerc, became inspired by Norman ideas, 
and, before his accession to the throne, was advanced 
to the dignity of a Norman baron. In the feudal 
system, which, for upwards of 100 years, had 
operated in England and transformed its institu- 
tions, he found an instrument ready to his hand for 
remodelling the customs of the Scottish people. He 
introduced a powerful Norman baronetage, by means 
of whom he planted, on an extended scale, the 
principles of feudal tenure, and a ruling idea of his 
reign was to suppress Celtic aspirations and institu- 


tions, as inconsistent with the new social system and 
with loyalty to the crown. Thus did the new feudal 
system take root in our Scottish soil, and under its 
shadow have flourished those Anglo-Norman institu- 
tions which have done so mucli to mould the 
national life. 

Having thus endeavoured to indicate the trend of 
Scottish history down to the twelfth century, the 
period at which Clan Donald history begins to 
emerge out of the dim twilight of uncertainty, we 
hope to shew how this representative and outstand- 
ing family were aftected by the new order of Scottish 
feudalism. Tiiere still remains, however, to be 
considered and disposed of, the important question 
of the descent of the Clan Donald ; a question which 
we have deemed advisable to take up only after all 
other preliminary matters pertainiug to general 
Scottish history, and pertinent to our special theme, 
had been, we hope, intelHgibly discussed. In our 
introductory chapter we drew attention, at some 
length, to the various elements that combined to 
constitute the Scottish people. To which of the 
races that in early times occupied the Highlands and 
Islands do the Clan Donald belong ? Taking, for 
example, the real founder of the Family of the Isles 
in times that are clearly historical — Somerled Rex 
hisularum — where are we to look for his origin and 
descent ? Was he, as his name indicates, of Norse 
extraction 1 was he of Pictish blood, and thus 
descended from the ancient Celtic stock of Caledonia? 
did he owe his birth to the Scoto-Irish race of 
Dalriada ? or was he of the mysterious Gall-Gael ? 
In one sense it is impossible, perhaps, to give a 
categorical answer to any of these questions. It is 
unlikely that he was purely the oflspring of any one 


race. Judging by his name, we should pronounce 
him a Norseman, were it not for other circumstances 
that point to a different conclusion. He may have 
received that name through some ancestress, perhaps 
some " fair-haired " ^ Norwegian mother, who also 
bequeathed to him the enterprising spirit of the 
Vikings. That he was of Norse descent in the male 
line is an hypothesis for which there is not a shred 
of evidence. The truth is borne in upon us from 
manifold sources that the spirit and tendency of the 
house of Somerled, and all the interests of his race, 
were in direct antagonism to the Norwegian occupa- 
tion of the West of Scotland. Obviously it does not 
stand to reason that a Norseman should have made 
it the main object of his life to overthrow the 
supremacy of his own race, and erect a Gaelic 
Kingdom in room of the Norwegian power. The 
title Righ Fionnghall, by which many of the Chiefs 
of the Clan have been distinguished by the High- 
land bards and seanachies, is no proof of a Norwegian 
descent. It would appear that they received this 
distinction because, after the time of Somerled, the 
Lords of the Isles ruled over a large extent of 
territory which in former times had been subject 
to the Kings of Man, to whom the designation Righ 
Fionnghall had been originally applied. 

It remains now to shew to which branch of the 
Celtic tree the Clan Donald owe their descent. 
Though the question as to whether the origin of 
this family is derived from the Picts or Scots is 
a somewhat subordinate one ; seeing that both these 
nations were hewn out of the same rock, offshoots of 
the Goedelic branch of the Celtic tree ; still it is one 

^ Hill's Macdonalds of Antrim. 


of much importance, and has been earnestly discussed 
by the best modern authorities. In deciding upqn 
an answer to it, we have to reckon, on the one hand, 
with the conclusions of Dr Skene, justly regarded as 
one of the most thorough and painstaking of recent 
Avriters upon the history and ethnology of the Gael ; 
and, on the other hand, with the mass of Highland 
and Irish tradition, the accumulation of many 
centuries. Gregory, while favouring a Celtic origin, 
is indefinite in his conclusions, leaving the problem 
of Celtic versus Norse virtually an open question, 
and consequently, of course, not condescending upon 
the more special issue of a Pictish versus Scoto- 
Irish descent. In his "Highlanders of Scotland," 
published in 1837, the work by which Dr Skene 
first came into notice as a prominent historical 
writer, he strongly supports the theory of the 
Pictish descent of the Clan Donald. He maintains 
that the Gael of Argyll, who afterwards became 
known as the Gall-Gael, were of the Pictish stock ; 
that the ancestors of the Clan Donald were of 
the Gall-Gael, and that the Orkneyinga Saga, 
the traditions of the family, and otlier sources of 
historical evidence confirm the same contention. 
This writer has not, however, been uniformly con- 
sistent in the expression of his views in this 
connection. In the third volume of his " Celtic 
Scotland," published in 1880, he, no doubt, reminds 
us in a footnote that he has had no occasion to alter 
the opinion he held in 1837, but he forgets that in 
his introduction to the Book of the Dean of Lismore 
he had, to a large extent, given away his case in 
the statement that " the spirit and tendency of the 
whole race was essentially Irish." 


Dr Skene, in his advocacy of this view, lays 
great stress on the following considerations. First 
of all he quotes at length a letter written in 1543 
by a Highland clergyman of the name of John 
Elder, a Keddshanks, to Henry VIII. of England, in 
which he emphasises the alleged older tradition that 
the Macdonalds were, in common with the other 
Highland Clans, of the " ancient stoke," and 
denounces in no measured terms the " papistical 
curside spiritualitie of Scotland," whom he held 
responsible for what he deemed the later Dalriadic 
tradition. Furthermore, an argument in support of 
the same contention is based on a paragraph in a 
letter written in 1596 by James Macdonald of 
Dunnyveg to King James VI., which is as follows : — 
" Most mightie and potent prince recomend us unto 
your hieness with our service for ever, your grace 
shall understand that our forbears hath been from 
time to time your servants unto your own Kingdom 
of Scotland."^ From these and other considerations 
of less weight, Dr Skene has developed an ingenious 
argument to prove that the Scoto-Irish genealogy 
of the Clan Donald is an artificial system of no 
earlier origin than the fourteenth century, concocted 
by Irish and Highland seanachies, and that the 
Clan Donald were the principal tribe of the Gall- 
Gael who inhabited the coastlands of Argyll, and 
were of the primitive stock of Scotland. 

It may at once be admitted that some at least of 
the main premisses from which Dr Skene deduces 
these conclusions are substantially correct. It is 
in the highest degree probable that a large pro- 
portion of the Highland Clans of the mainland, and 

^ The expression " from time to time" meaning here, ag in other ancient 
documents, from time immemorial. 


even some of those that are territorially connected 
with the Western Isles in modern times, such as the 
Macleans and Mackenzies, are remnants of the 
ancient system of Northern Pictland. On the other 
hand, Dr Skene, in the course of his argument, 
makes an assertion which it is impossible to accept. 
He maintains that in the eleventh century the 
whole Highlands, including Argyll, were inhabited 
by the Northern Picts, of whom the Gall-Gael were 
an important tribe. Such a statement as this 
implies either the extinction of the Scoto-Celtic 
race in the Kingdom of Dalriada after 844 A.D., or 
a wholesale migration of that stock into the territory 
of the Southern Picts. There does not appear to be 
historical evidence for any such extraordinary occur- 
rence. A Dalriadic population occupied Argyll for 
500 years previous to the reign of Kenneth Mac- 
Alpin, and when the union of the Kingdoms took 
place, they must have been the preponderating 
element in that region. That the race should have 
made an exodus out of Dalriada between the ninth 
and eleventh centuries is a supposition that makes 
excessive demands upon the most vivid historical 

The proofs adduced in support of these aver- 
ments, however much truth they may contain, 
cannot be regarded as justifying the conclusions. 
The statement that the MacDonalds were indigenous 
in Argyll, as shown Ijy the Orkneyinga Sagas, and 
that this was the tradition of the Clan, as the letter 
of James MacDonald of Dunnyveg illustrates, seem 
rather beside the question. From 1596 backwards 
to the founding of the Dalriadic Kingdom in the 
fifth and sixth centuries, or to the ninth or even the 
eleventh century, was a period of time sufficiently 


long to constitute a tradition of very respectable 
antiquity. Besides, the same James MacDonald of 
Dunnyveg, to whose letter Dr Skene attaches such 
importance, wrote another letter in 1615 to the 
Bishop of the Isles, which is capable of the very 
opposite construction from the theory of a Pictisli 
descent. " My race," Sir James writes, "has been ten 
hundred years kindly Scottish men under the Kings 
of Scotland." The "kindliness" may have been 
dissembled on certain memorable occasions, such as 
at the battle of Harlaw, but the words are 
sufficiently suggestive, as indicative of the true 
descent of the Clan. Touching the epistle of John 
Elder, we are not disposed to place much reliance 
upon the letter of a bigoted Highland cleric at any 
time, much less in 1543, when the Beformation 
controversy was at red heat. The contents of the 
letter itself are evidence enough that we are not 
slandering Mr John Elder. The warmth of his 
invective and the keenness of his odium theologicum 
against the Church, on which he fastens the blame 
of what he regards as a false historical conception, 
do not encourage us to rely upon his testimony as 
a calm and unbiassed authority. 

The conclusions arrived at in our Introductory 
chapter as to the Gall-Gael are, if tenable, quite 
subversive of the theory that the Clan Donald 
belonged to them. There is no evidence that the 
Gall-Gael were a territorial people or anything more 
or less than Gaelic pirates, while, as we hope to 
show, every vestige of Clan Donald history indicates 
their connection with large territorial, even regal, 

The fact that Suibne, the son of Cineada ri Gall- 
Gael, is recorded by the Irish Annalists to have died 


in 1034, and that one of the Clan Donald line of the 
same name occurs in the genealogies of the Clan, 
may possibly have helped to lead Dr Skene to adopt 
what we consider an untenable position. Suibne, 
the ancestor of Somerled, was the son of Niallgusa ; 
nor does the name Kenneth occur in any of the 
genealogical lists, a fact that seems conclusive 
against identifying the one with the other. 

We hope now to be able to show from evidence, 
tliat seems on the whole convincing, that the Clan 
Donald are descended from the Dalriadic stock of 
Argyll. Dean Munro, who flourished like the Red- 
shanks cleric in the sixteenth century, and was a 
respected Church dignitary of his day, distinctly 
favours this conclusion, while the MS. of 1450 and 
the genealogy of the MacYurichs, whose history as 
seanachies to this family goes back to Muireadach 
Albannach in the twelfth century, all afford 
2)rima facie evidence of the truth of our contention. 
No doubt we are warned against both Irish and 
Highland seanachies, and it is necessary that 
their statements should be duly weighed, especially 
when questions arise affecting the honour and 
glory of the family or branch in which they are 
most specially interested. Yet even Dr Skene 
admits that, from the battle of Ocha, in 478 A.D., 
which forms an epoch in Irish history, the Irish 
Annals may be taken as fairly accurate, though 
in such details as genealogical links they may not be 
strictly so. The same is true of the Highland 
seanachies, especially the Book of Clanranald. 
Though not perhaps invariably accurate in every 
date and detail, yet, on the whole, we believe it to 
be the most honest and reliable of all the ancient 
authorities on the origin and history of the Clan. 


And the argument from these standard authorities 
is strengthened by the natural inference deducible 
from the annals of the Clan in historical times. 
From the very beginning of the Island dynasty 
founded by Somerled there was a close connection 
between Ireland and Argyll and the Isles. The 
establishment of the Gaelic kingdom was largely 
promoted by Irish aid ; matrimonial alliances with 
Irish families were frequently formed by the chiefs ; 
many members of the family acquired settlements in 
Antrim and Tyrone, and the bards and seanachies of 
the Isles went for their education to the literary 
schools of the North of Ireland. These circum- 
stances seem to point all to the same conclusion. 

It is necessary for us, however, to go beyond 
this, and to consider whether the strong probabilities 
of the case are supported by what we can gather 
from the history of ancient Dalriada. When the 
union of Pictavia and Dalriada took place, and the 
seat of Government in the latter kingdom was 
transferred from Dunadd to Scone, the shifting of 
the political centre of gravity from the coast to the 
interior must have seriously affected the population 
of Oirthir-Ghael. In circumstances in which society 
is insufficiently organised for defence when the 
governing power is withdrawn from the extremities, 
it is clear that the latter become more open to 
foreign invasion. In view of this, it is significant 
that it was in the latter part of the ninth century 
that the Norwegian invasion began to be felt in the 
West, in the coastlands of the Gael and the Isles. 
From the latter half of the ninth century onwards 
there was a perpetual struggle between the Norse- 
men and the native population, a struggle in which 
the people of the Isles soon yielded to the power of 


the Norseman ; but the Gaels of Argyll continued 
bravely to resist the incursions of the foe. Not- 
withstanding this resistance, the districts both of 
Ergadia and Galwallia were largely occupied in the 
eleventh century by the Norsemen, for at the battle 
of Cluantarf in 1014 there is mention of the Galls or 
foreigners of Man, Skye, Lewis, Kintyre, and 
Oirthir glutei. Further, when Thorfinn, the Earl of 
Orkney, conquered the nine rikis in Scotland in 1034, 
he included in his possessions Dali or Ergadia and 
Gaddeli or Galloway. This being, in brief, the 
general history of Argyll or Dalriada up to the 
eleventh century, from the reign of Kenneth 
MacAlpin, the question arises, how far the traditional 
genealogy of the Clan Donald which makes them of 
the stock of Dalriada is to be brought into line with 
the well-known historical facts to which we have 
adverted ? In order to do this, we consider it 
desirable, for the sake of clearness, to trace from the 
earliest times the ancestry of the Clan Donald as we 
find it in Irish and Highland genealogies. 

The early history of the Clann Cholla — the 
designation of our Clan from Donald back to Colla 
Uais — penetrates far into the mists of antiquity. 
Though, in detail, all that glitters is not gold, yet in 
the main the seanachies may, without too much 
credulity, be taken as fairly historical. The 
genealogists, however, take a still further flight into 
the dim past when they connect the Clan with a 
celebrated Irish King, Conn Ceud-Chathach, Con- 
strmtinus Centimachus, or Constantine of the Hundred 
Fights. Conn, who was A7-(l Righ, or supreme 
king, of Ireland, and swayed the sceptre at Tara, 
flourished in the second century of our era, and as 
his name indicates, was one of the greatest heroes of 


antiquity. The tradition as to this descent has 
undoubtedly been for ages the living belief of the 
Clan, and without very strong evidence to the con- 
trary, we are not disposed to surrender it. At the 
Battle of Harlaw, MacYurich, the bard, sought to 
rouse the heroism of the men of the Isles, by stirring 
up the consciousness of this kingly descent — 

" A Chlanna Chiiinn cuimhnichibh 
Cruas an am na h-iorghuill." 

And doubtless the same inspiring thought animated 
the warriors of the Clan Donald on many another 
bloody field. Ewen M'Lachlan, the celebrated bard 
and scholar, in his poem to the Society of true 
Highlanders, gives to the race of Somerled the same 
remote and royal lineage : — 

" Before the pomp advanced in kingly grace 
I see the stem of Conn's victorious race, 
Whose sires of old the Western sceptre swayed, 
Which all the Isles and Albion's half obeyed." 

The tradition of its descent from Conn has certainly 
impressed the imagination of the race and inspired 
many of its singers. When we come towards the 
fourth century there appears upon the scene another 
ancestor of our Clan, hardly less renowned than the 
famous Conn, Col] a Uais, who is also styled Ard 
High of Ireland. Colla's descent from Constantine 
is a matter on which genealogists are not agreed. 
The genealogy developed in the MS, of 1450 
supplies three or four links which are omitted by 
the Clanranald seanachie. Which of the two more 
nearly approaches accuracy it is, of course, impossible 
to say. The fact that there are discrepancies seems, 
however, to dispose of the theory that the Irish 
descent of the Clan was an artificial system 


concocted by Irish genealogists, encouraged by 
th ' Scottish ecclesiastics, and adopted by High- 
la:: 1 seanachies. Were this the case, we should 
have expected, in both cases, an identical and 
stereotyped genealogy. The fact that these gene- 
alogies, though different in detail, are yet similar in 
their main conclusions, is a clear proof that the 
Scoto-Celtic origin of the Clan was not artificially 
devised to fit in with favourite historical beliefs, 
but was a hona-jide and actual tradition. 

Colla Uais was, according to the MS. of 1450, 
eighth; according to MacVurich, fifth, in descent 
from Constantino. He was the eldest of three 
brothers, each of whom bore the name of Colla — 
Colla Uais, Colla Meann, and Colla da Chrich — 
their baptismal names being Caireall, Aodh, and 
Muredach. The name Colla seems to have been 
given them according to an ancient poem, for being 
rebellious, and probably means a strong man— 

" Caireall, the first name of Colla Uais ; 
Aodh, of Colla Meauii of great vigour; 
Muredach, of Colla da Chrich : 
They were imposed on them for rebelling." 

According to the genealogists, these brothers were 
the sons of Eochaid or Ochaius Dubhlin, King of 
Ireland,^ and their mother was a Scottish princess of 
the name of Aileach, a daughter of Ubdaire, King of 
Alba. This lady is celebrated in an ancient Irish 
poem as "a mild, true woman, modest, blooming, 
till the love of the Gael disturbed her, and she 
passed with him from the midst of Kintyre to the 
land of Uladh." We can gather from the sean- 
achies that, having failed in the attempt to place 
Colla Uais on the throne of Ireland, the three 

^ Book of Clanranakl in " Celticsc Reliquisc," vol. ii., p. 150. 


brothers crossed the Irish Channel for help from 
their Scottish kindred. Probably through the 
influence of their mother s relatives, the three Collas 
were able to muster a considerable force in Scotland, 
at the head of which they re-crossed the Irish 
Channel, and with the help of their Irish allies 
placed Colla Uais on the regal seat at Tara. 
Colla Uais, however, reigned only four years, when 
he was dispossessed by Muredach Tirech, his near 
relative, who, it appears, had a better claim 
to the throne. According to Mac Mliuirich, the 
three Collas after this returned to Scotland, 
where they obtained extensive settlements ; but 
having afterwards been reconciled to Muredach 
Tirech, they were invited by him to assist him 
in the war against the Clan Ruairidh. On the con- 
clusion of the war, the three Collas received extensive 
possessions in the North of Ireland as the reward of 
their prowess ; but Colla Uais left his share to the 
other two and returned to Scotland. After a resi- 
dence of fifteen years in Scotland he went on a visit 
to Ireland, and died at Tara of the Kings, a.d. 337. 

It seems apparent that although Siol Chuiim 
thus early established a settlement in Scotland, 
their headquarters continued in Ireland. For fully 
a hundred years the region, which was afterwards 
the Kingdom of Scottish Dalriada, was only a 
colony of the Scoto-Irish race ; as has already been 
fully narrated. 

It was four generations after Colla Uais that the 
forward movement of the Dalriadic race occurred 
which eventuated in the new kingdom in the region 
of Oirthirghael. It is at this point that the Clan 
Donald line touches that of the Scottish kings, and 
that their common origin and ancestry appear. 



Fergus, the son of Ere, one of the three brothers 
who came to Scotland in the fifth century and 
founded Scottish Dahiada, was, according to the 
MS. of 1450, fourth, and according to the Mac- 
Mhuirich genealogy, fifth, in descent from Colla 
Uais. MacMhuirich inserts " Maine" between 
Fergus and Ere, a variation which, though supported 
by some Irish and other authorities, does not seem 
to possess much historical probability. The gene- 
alogy of the 1450 MS. is, in this respect, supported 
by the Albanic Duan. 

Fergus Mor, the son of Ere, had two sons, 
Domangart and Godfrey. Domangart, the elder 
son, succeeded his father, and was the progenitor 
of Kenneth MacAlpin and the succeeding line of 
Scottish kings. Godfrey, the younger son, was 
the progenitor of the line from which the Clan 
Donald sprang, and was known in his day as 
Toshach of the Isles. It would be absurd to say 
that there are no difficulties presented in the 
genealogy from Godfrey downwards.^ Links seem 
wanting to fulfil the conditions which the lapse of 
so many generations demands. Something like 
antediluvian longevity would be needed in several 
of the links in order to fill up the centuries. Yet 
while this is so, the conclusions suggested by the 
main drift of the genealogy seem clear enough. If 
links are lacking, those that can be subjected to 
historical tests are not found wanting in historical 
probability. Gilledomnan and Gillebride, Somerled's 
immediate ancestors, can easily be identified, and of 
the rest, Imergi, called by MacMhuirich Meargaidh, 
is mentioned in the Irish Annals, and is very likely 
the lehmare of the Saxon Ghronicle, one of the 
three kings who submitted to Canut, the Danish 

^ For genealogies dowu to Somerlcd vide Apiooudis. 


King of England, when he invaded Scotland in 

To sum up our discussion of the Clan Donald 
descent, the main conclusions which seem deducible 
from the field of enquiry are these : — We are satisfied 
that the population of Dalriada continued after 844 
to be largely Scoto-Irish, and it is highly probable, 
apart from any historical knowledge we may possess, 
that after the transference of the royal family of 
Dalriada to Scone, the chief power in the west 
would fall to some family more or less akin to the 
line of Kenneth MacAlpin. This is entirely in 
accordance with historical analogy, and is counten- 
anced by the authorities so often quoted. It was 
undoubtedly in the ninth century that the Clan 
C holla rose into greater consequence in Argyll and 
the Isles, until the power of the Norsemen 
threatened the Gael with extinction. The Norse 
invasion of the West of Scotland had, as we 
approach the beginning of the twelfth century, 
reduced the fortunes of the Celtic population of 
Argyll to a state of great depression. If by the 
latter half of the twelfth century the Norwegian 
power had been checked, and Gaelic influence 
re-established in Argyll and the Isles, it was owing 
to the prowess and address of one of the most 
celebrated on the long roll of Celtic heroes, 
Somerled MacGillebride. 





Gilledomiian. — Gillebride na li-iiaimh. — His attempt to recover 
the Famil}" Inheritance. — His Faihire. — Rise of Somerled. — - 
Early Life. — Gaelic Risinp;. — The MacTnneses. — Somei'led's 
Leadership and Strategy. — Regulus of Argyll. — Olave the 
Red. — Marriage "with Ragnhildis. — Accession of Godred. — 
Rebellion in Man. — Battle off Isla. — Division of Isles.— 
Conquest of Man. — Malcolm Macheth. — Somerled's Treaty 
with Malcolm IV. — Somerled's Invasion of Scotland. — His 
Death, Character, and Position. 

In the 11th century the Irish and Highland 
Seanachies throw faint rays of hght upon the posi- 
tion and prospects of the Clan Cholla. During 
the first half of that century it appears that Gille- 
domnan, the grandfather of Somerled, was a person 
of consequence, and held sway over a consideiuble 
portion of Argyll. That he was a leader of some 
note may be inferred from the circumstance of his 
daughter having been the wife of Harold, one of 
the Kings of Norway. In his time the fortunes of 
the family were probably at the lowest ebb. Able 
hitherto to hold their own against Scandinavian 
assaults, the latter seemed destined to obtain a 
permanent supremacy, and Gilledomiian was finally 
driven from his territories and took refuge in Ire- 
land, where, after devoting the latter part of his 
life to pious duties, he very probably lived till his 


Gillebride, the son of Gilledomnan, who had fled 
with his father to Ireland, now made a vigorous 
effort to recover the inheritance of his sires. Beino- 
among his Irish kindred of the Clan Cholla, in the 
County of Fermanagh/ it was determined to place 
a force of 400 or 500 men at his disposal to aid him 
in vindicating his rights. Accompanied by this 
warrior band, Gillebride landed in Argyll, and. made 
a gallant attempt to dislodge the invader ; yet the 
Norseman had by this time obtained such a firm 
hold of the country, that Gillebtide and his followers 
were obliged ultimately to retire into the woods and 
caves of Morvern. From his compulsory seclusion 
in a cave on the shores of Loch Linnhe, this Gaelic 
leader came to be known as GUlehride na h-uaimh. 
Gregory, without any authority, save one dark hint 
from the historian of Sleat, attributes Gillebride's 
defeat and consequent seclusion to his alleged action 
after the death of Malcolm Canmore, in supporting 
the claims of Donald Bane to the throne against 
the Anglo-Saxon party. This statement does not 
possess much historical 'probability. It was the 
aim of Gillebride's life to regain possession of his 
ancestral domains from the hands of the usurping 
Norseman ; it was ao^ainst them that all his efforts 
were directed, and his intervention at any time in 
the internal quarrels of the Scottish State is in the 
highest degree unlikely. 

From this time Gillebride seems to have made 
no further effort to regain the territory of his 
fathers in the region of Oirthirghael. It is therefore 
clear that a crisis has arrived in the history of the 
Western Gael, as well as in the fortunes of the Clan 

1 The Book of Claurauald in " Reliquiw Celticsc," vol. II., p. 155. Alio 
see Hugh Macckuald's MS, 


Cholla. The Norseman is on the eve, not only of 
expelHng him from the Isles, but of crushing his 
prestige and authority on the mainland as well. 
It was at this critical moment, when Teutonic 
ascendancy in the AVest seemed on the eve of 
asserting itself finally and triumphantly, that 
Somerled arose. Gillebride and his cave vanish 
into the unknown, and his warlike son steps upon 
the scene of history, to become the terror of the 
Norseman and the Achilles of his race. 

The events of Somerled's life are, like his gene- 
alogy, shrouded in the mists of unverifiable 
tradition. They belong to that borderland of 
history and legend on which the chronicler can 
with difficulty find a secure resting-place for the 
sole of his foot. Yet amid the shifting debris of 
old-world history, there are certain main outlines 
and facts which have crystallised themselves as 
genuine and authentic, and afford indications of an 
impressive and commanding personality issuing out 
of the dim past, possessing immense force of char- 
acter, high military talents, great energy and 
ambition, combined with a large measure of that 
political sagacity and prudence which constitute a 
ruler and leader of men. 

All we know of the early history of this 
renowned Gaelic hero is derived exclusively from 
tradition. Hugh Macdonald, the Sleat historian, 
who flourished in tlio latter half of the seventeenth 
century, embodied that tradition hi a MS. history, 
written in the year 1680, and is responsible for 
almost every word that has been written since his 
time ujjon Somerled's early career. Save when he 
is tempted to exalt his own branch at the expense 
of others, he is, though not strictly accurate, still a 


fairty reliable exponent of the history and traditions 
of his Clan. 

When Somerled first comes upon the scene, he is 
living with his father in his cave amid the Avilds of 
Morvern, an unambitious young man, devoted to 
fishing and hunting, and as yet apparently without 
any intention of thrusting himself forward as a 
leader of men. But the exigencies of the time soon 
transformed this Celtic Nimrod into a hero. Amid 
his devotion to the chase, he must have had many 
hours of reflection upon the fallen fortunes of his 
family, and unsuspected depths in his nature were 
stirred up by the tale of their misfortunes. The 
faded glory of the once kingly house, with all 
the humiliating conditions that accompanied its 
downfall, seized with irresistible force upon his 
imagination, and the resolve to build up again its 
ruined state became the passion of his life. Often 
must he have wished that the day might come when 
he could strike a blow for freedom and the right. 
That day at length came, and it found Somerled 
ready. It seems that about this time a strenuous 
effort had been made by the native tribes of Argyll 
to free themselves from the Scandinavian yoke. 
Their enemies had also prepared themselves to strike 
a decisive blow for the final assertion of supremacy. 
The galleys of the Norsemen studded the western 
sea, and a descent in force upon the shores of Oirthir- 
ghael ensued. The result was a terrible onslaught 
upon the native tribes that endeavoured to with- 
stand the invading host, and their eventual defeat 
ensued. It was observed, however, that one tribe — 
the Maclnneses — left the field in good order, led by 
a young man tall in stature and valiant in fight, 
who had performed prodigies of valour that day. 


The Maclnneses^ had lost their own leader, but had 
found one in Somhairle Mor Mac Ghillchhride. 
Some time thereafter this brave sept, loving liberty- 
more than life, resolved once more to make an effort 
for the achievement of their independence. They 
assembled to take counsel as to the course they 
should pursue in so critical an emergency. The 
Crann tara was sent through the land, and soon 
from far and near the men of Argyll, defeated but 
not subdued, flocked to the place of rendezvous to 
the east side of Benmore. A council of war was 
held, but the unanimity so desirable in the face of a 
united foe, did not prevail. The leaders of the 
various tribes respectively strove with one another 
for the chief command. The caiiip was in motion 
like an anthill. All began to draw their weapons, 
when an aged chief rose in the midst and demanded 
to be heard, setting forth at great length the 
dangers to which their dissensions exposed them, 
and suggesting the appointment to the chief com- 
mand of one in whom all had implicit confidence. 
He concluded by recommending the choice of 
Somerled as one who, from his prowess in the 
recent conflict, was well fitted for such a post. To 
this they all agreed, and messengers were at once 
dispatched to offer him the command. Somerled 
had some hesitation in accepting the offer on view- 
ing the strength of the opposing force, but he had 
recourse to a stratagem which served his purpose 
well. Each man was ordered to kill his cow, and 
this having been done, and the animals skinned, the 
Gaels waited the approach of the enemy. Somerled 
now ordered his little army to march round the 
eminence on which they lay encamped, which 

• ' lor ^liiclmiescs, see Apiciulix. 


having done, he made them all put on the cow 
hides to disguise themselves and repeat the move- 
ment. He finally ordered his men to reverse the 
cowhides, and now, for the third time, to go through 
the same movement, thus exhibiting to the eiiemy 
the appearance of a strong force composed of three 
divisions. The stratagem had the desired effect, 
The enemy, believing that a formidable force was 
coming down upon them, fell into utter confusion. 
Somerled, taking advantage of the panic, fell uj^on 
the Scandinavian host with great slaughter. The 
toe was routed, scattered, and pursued to the north 
bank of the Sheill, where they took to their galleys.^ 
Thus did Somerled strike his first successful blow 
for the country of his fathers, and started on his 
career of warlike triumph. He was not satisfied 
with the success of this preliminary skirmish. With 
the instinct of the capable man of action, he took 
advantage of that turn in the tide of human affairs 
which carries those who watch and follow it on to 
power and fortune. Somerled followed up his advan- 
tage, prosecuted the war still further into the heart 
of the enemy's country, and his forces gathering 
strength and confidence with continued success, he 
was soon able to drive the Norsemen from Oirthir- 
ghael to Innse-Gall. His victories were the first 
successful rally which, for hundreds of years, had 
been made by the Celts of the West of Scotland 
against the Norwegian power. 

Somerled having thus gained possession of the 
mainland domain which belonged to his sires, 
assumed the title of Thane or llegulus of Argyll. 
A man who had risen thus suddenly to eminence 
and power was likely enough, in view of the past, to 

^ Hugh Macdonald's MS. New Statistical Account of Morveru. 


take advantage of his new position to break still 
further the sway of the enemies of his race, not only 
over Oirthirghael but over the Western Isles. It 
became his settled policy to subdue the Kingdom of 
Man and the Isles, and whether or not the erection 
of a Celtic Kingdom upon its ruins was his intention 
from the beginning of his career, the idea must 
have gradually shaped itself in his mind, and the 
progress of events enabled him to carry it into 
effect. In these circumstances, Olave the Red, 
King of Man and the Isles, feeling the shocks the 
Norwejjfian Power had received at the hands of the 
Celtic chief, and somewhat uneasy in the possession 
of the Sudoreys, effected a temporary friendship and 
a cessation of hostilities by bestowing his daughter 
upon him in marriage, a compact which probably 
he would not have cemented so successfully had not 
the hero of Argyll, from all accounts, been hopelessly 
in love with the fair Ragnhildis. The story of how 
he won his bride is told with i^reat minuteness of 
detail by the historian of Sleat, who makes it appear 
as if the overtures for her hand were all on the side 
of Somerled. It was a stratagem, but all is fair in 
love as in war. Olave lay encamped in Stoma Bay, 
in the neighbourhood of which Somerled also was 
cruising. The latter, in course of an interview, in 
which he sought to remain incognito, told Olave 
that he had come from the Thane of Argyll, who 
promised to accompany him on his expedition if he 
gave him his daughter in marriage. Olave, recog- 
nising the aspirant to his daughter's hand, declined, 
it is said, the proffered alHance, but expressing his 
willingness to have Somerled's company on his 
cruise. A foster-brother of Olave, Maurice Mac- 
Neill, was a friend of Somerled, and offered to 


devise means for winning the King's daughter. His 
offer was accepted. In the night time Maurice 
scuttled the King's ship. Boring several holes in 
the bottom, he made pins of the necessary size to 
stop them when necessity demanded, but meanwhile 
filled the holes with butter. Next day they set 
sail, and for a time all went well. 

As soon, however, as they came to the stormy 
point of Ardnamurchan, the action of the waves 
displaced the greasy packing of the holes in Olave's 
ship, which immediately began to leak, with 
imminent danger of sinking and drowning the King 
and all on board. Olave and his men thereupon 
called on Somerled, who with his galley followed in 
their wake, to help them in their extremity. No 
assistance would be granted unless the King swore 
that he would give Somerled his daughter in 
marriage. The oath was taken ; Olave was received 
into Somerled's galley, and Maurice MacNeill fixed 
the pins he had prepared into the holes, and the 
King's ship, much to his own astonishment, con- 
tinued on its way in safety. From that day it is 
said that the descendants of this Maurice are called 
Maclntyres^ — the sons of the wright. 

This is Hugh Macdonald's story, and whatever 
foundation there may be for it, it is hardly credible 
that the King of Man should have displayed such 
reluctance in allying his family with a chief of such 
proved capacity and extending influence as Somerled. 
The marriage took place in 1140, according to the 
author of the Chronicles of Man, who refers to it as 
the cause of the ultimate ruin of the Kingdom of 
the Isles. 

^ Maclntyre, Gael, Mac-an-t-Saoir. 


In the year 1153-54, the long and peaceful reign 
of Olave had a sudden and tragic close. He was 
murdered by his nephews, the sons of Harold, who 
had been brought up in Dublin, and laid claim to 
half the King-dom of Man. The foUowins^ autumn 
Godred, the son of Olave, who was in Norway at 
the time of his father's assassination, set sail for the 
Isles, was received gladly by the inhabitants as 
their King, and executed the murderers. Early in 
his reign he was called to Ireland by the Ostmen 
of the Kingdom of Dublin, which was at the time a 
Norwegian principality, to quell disturbances that 
had arisen, and assume sovereign power. Victory 
rested on his arms, and he returned to Man flushed 
with success, and intoxicated with increased 
dominion. But prosperity turned his head, and his 
arbitrary and tyrannical exercise of power alienated 
the loyalty of the Island chiefs. So oppressive and 
despotic was his rule that many of the principal 
men of the Isles banded themselves together to 
resist him. 

Thus were events shaping themselves in a way 
which powerfully affected the interests and inflamed 
the ambition of Somerled. The Isle of Man was 
inhabited by a population Avhich was mainly Celtic. 
The ruling dynasty Jiad, in the person of Godred, 
incurred extreme unpopularity, and these circum- 
stances seemed more or less favourable to any 
pretensions which Somerled might advance, con- 
nected as he was by marriage with the family which 
hitherto held sway in the Isles. Thorfin, the son of 
Ottar, the most powerful of the disaffected barons, 
was chosen as leader of the contemplated rising, and 
he made the proposal to Somerled that his son 
Dugall should be proclaimed King of the Isles. 


Somerled readily assented to the proposals of 
the Islesmen. Dugall, who was only a boy at the 
thne, was carried through the Isles and proclaimed 
King, while hostages were taken for the loyalty of 
the Islesmen and their acquiescence in the new 

This revolution had no sooner been accomplished 
than a treacherous sychophant of the name of 
PauP — probably as little in nature as in name, 
and to whom, doubtless, the smile of the tyrant 
was as the breath of life — fled to the Isle of 
Man and informed Godred of the startling events 
that were happening in the Scottish Isles. Godred, 
without delay, equipped a considerable fleet, with 
which he sailed to the Isles w^ith the object of 
crushing the rebellion. Somerled, having been 
apprised of the approach of this large armament, 
collected a fleet of 80 sail, and on the night of 
Epiphany, 115G A.D.,^ a long, obstinate, and 
sanguinary conflict took place ofl" the north coast of 
Isla. If we gauge the battle by its results, the 
advantage lay with the Thane of Argyll. Peace 
was concluded, and a treaty formed between Godred 
and Somerled by which the whole of the islands 
south of the Point of Ardnamurchan, along with 
Kintyre,* came into j^ossession of the latter. 

The peace which was thus established proved 
of short duration. The history of the time tells 
us little or nothing as to the causes of the 
second rupture, but within the space of two years 
after this treaty with Godred, Somerled invaded the 

^ Chronicles of Man Orknej'inga Saga. 

- Said to have been Paul Balkansou, Norwegian Lord of Skye. 

^ Chronicles of Man. 

* Since the time of Magnus Barefoot, Kin tyre was reckoned one of the 


Isle of Man with fifty-three galleys, routed Godred, 
and laid the country waste. Godred's power was so 
much shattered tltat he was compelled to fly to 
Norway and seek aid from his liege lord against 
his victorious brother-in-law. But for a period of 
six years, during the Ufe-tirae of Somerled, Godred 
never returned to his usurped dominion, and the 
w^hole kingdom of Man and the Isles lay at the 
victor's feet.^ 

This rapid and triumphant revolution in favour 
of Gaelic influence on the western shores of Scot- 
land could not be viewed with indifference by the 
State, and was the cause of much envy among the 
neighbours of the Thane of Argyll. However 
unlikely it may be that Somerled's father was 
involved in the political complications subsequent 
to the death of Malcolm Canmore, it is absolutely 
certain that his sympathies, and those of his son, 
would be with the Gaelic influence that placed 
Donald Bane on the throne, as against the Anglo- 
Norman culture which was moulding Scottish 
institutions during the reign of Queen Margaret's 
sons. Circumstances arose to confirm and increase 
any unfriendly feeling already existing between 
the house of Somerled and the Crown. 

The Province of Moray, inhabited in early times 
by the Northern Picts, and long occupying an 
independent position as regards the region of 
Southern Pictland, Avas, in the reign of David I., 
attached to the Scottish Crown, and Angus, the 
last of the Mormaors, was slain in battle in 1130.^ 
Four years thereafter the rising of Malcolm Mac- 
beth and his claim to the Eai'ldom of Moray took 
place. This insurrection, with the whole train of 

^ Chronicles of Man. - Aunals of Ulster and Innisfalleu, 


relative circumstances, is fraught with such peculiar 
interest, and has so direct a bearing upon the life of 
Somerled, that it demands more than a passing- 
reference. Malcolm Macheth first appears in history 
as a monk of the Cistercian monastery of Furness, 
founded in 1124, under the name of Wymund. He 
is said to have possessed qualities of a high order, 
calculated to secure advancement and dignity in the 
Church. His prospects of preferment appeared 
particularly bright. In 1134, Olave, King of Man, 
founded and endowed a religious house at Russin, in 
affiliation with the monastery of Furness, of which 
Yvo was Abbot, and Wymund was placed in charge 
of the new establisliment. His address was so 
winning, and his person so commanding, that he 
soon became very popular among the Norsemen, and 
they requested him to become their Bishop. In 
this their desires were gratified. No sooner was 
this step of promotion accomj)lished than a new and 
unexpected development in the career of Wymund 
arose. He declared himself to be the son of Angfus, 
Earl of Moray, who had been slain in 1130, and 
that he himself had been deprived of his inheritance 
by the Scottish King. The King of Man and 
Somerled, whose sister^ Wymund afterwards 
espoused, recognised the validity of his claim, which, 
according to the best authorities, appears to have 
been well founded. He gave up the monastic name 
of Brother Wymund, and assumed his proper Gaelic 
name, Malcolm Macheth. He immediately took 
steps to vindicate his claim to the Earldom of 

^ Lord Hailes, Vol. I., says : — " Apud Scotiam Somerled et nepotes sui 
filii scilicet Malcolmi." It could not have been a daughter of Somerled hy 
Ragnliildis, whom he married as late as 1140. Possiblj', though not probably, 
it might have been a daughter of Somerled by a former marriage who was 
Malcolm's wife, ■ • 


Moray. Having assembled a small fleet in the Isle 
of Man, he sailed to the Western Isles, where he 
receiv^ed a friendly reception from Somerled, and 
from whence he invaded the mainland of Scotland. 
Shortly after this, the Norwegian Earl of Orkney 
lent him his powerful support, and gave a strong 
proof of his faith in the rightfulness of his pre- 
tensions by marrying his sister. His connection 
with two such powerful chiefs enabled him for 
several years to prosecute his enterprise with a 
certain measure of success. He maintained an 
irregular and joredatory warfare with David I., at 
times retiring to his mountain fastnesses, at others 
taking refuge in his ships when pressed by the 
royal forces, until at last he was betrayed and taken 
prisoner while crossing the river Cree in Galloway. 
David, contrary to the character of saintliness he is 
said to have possessed, ordered his eyes to be put 
out, and imprisone 1 him in the Castle of Roxburgh.^ 
After Malcolm's capture and imprisonment, his 
sons appear to have sought a refuge with their 
uncle, the Thane of Argyll, although in their earlier 
struggles to recover their family rights, he does not 
seem to have taken a very prominent or active part. 
His own conflicts with the Norsemen w^ould have 
occupied all his energies. It appears that some time 
after his imprisonment in Roxburgh, Malcolm 
received the royal pardon, and taking up the broken 
thread of his monastic life he aga,in assumed the 
cowl, and retired to the monastery of Biland in 
Yorkshire. The sons of Malcolm Macbeth were 
again in rebellion in 1153 after the accession of 
Malcolm IV., and there is no doubt that on this 
occasion they enjoyed the powerful and strenuous 

1 Celtic Scotland, vol. L, })p. 460-64 ; Highlanders of Scotland, vol. II., p. 166. 


support of their uncle. Somerled took up arms, 
however, not merely in support of the Moray family, 
but as a protest against intrigues among the King's 
advisers which threatened the subversion of his own 
influence and position. The war lasted three years, 
and in course of it Donald, the eldest son of Malcolm 
Macbeth, was taken prisoner at Whithorn, in Gal- 
loway, and sent to the Castle of Roxburgh, where 
bis father had been in captivity.^ Such, however, 
was the vigour with which Somerled prosecuted 
the war, that Malcolm lY., considering prudence 
to be the better part of valour, resolved to come 
to terms. A treaty was drawn up in which, 
among other stipulations, it was agreed that Donald 
should be liberated, and Malcolm Macbeth invested 
with the Earldom of E-oss.^ That Malcolm was 
advanced to this dignity, although he failed to 
secure his ancestral position, is proved by letters of 
protection granted about this time by the King to 
the monks of Dunfermline, and addressed ''Malcolmo 
Comite de Ros,"^ &c. The charter, by which Som- 
erled effected such a great deliverance for the family 
of Macbeth, was so important as to mark an epoch 
in the history of such documents. Thus we have 
charters by King Malcolm to Angus de Sandside 
and to Berowaldus Flandrensis, both " given at 
Perth in the year of our Lord immediately following 
the treaty between the King and Somerled."* 

The peace that was established between the 
Crown and Somerled in 1157 seems to have lasted 
about seven years. History is not very clear as to 

^ Haile's Annals. 

^ Skene's Historians of Scotland, vol. IV. ; Wyntoun, vol. II. 
3 Celtic Scotland, vol. I., pp. 470-71. 

■* Carta . . per Malcolmum regem iv. Dat. apud Pert uatali domino 
proximo post coucordiam regis et Somerledi. 



the causes which led to an outbreak of hostihties In 
1164. According to tlie Chronicles of Man and the 
Scottish historians who have professed to record the 
transactions of the age, he had formed the ambitious 
design of conquering the whole of Scotland. We 
confess to attaching very little value to the opinions 
of Scottish historians regarding the history of the 
Highlands. Ignorance of the language, customs, 
and traditions of the people has so tainted their 
utterances ; racial hatred has likewise so blinded 
them to facts, that their deliverances on the difficult 
problems of Highland history are in the main quite 

That Somerled was inspired by ambition it 
would be useless to deny, as otherwise he could 
never have carved out so illustrious a career, or laid 
the foundation of a great historical dynasty. That 
an inordinate desire possessed him to enlarge his 
already extensive territories by an attack upon the 
Scottish Knigdom, is in the nature of things most 
unlikely, and inconsistent with the clear judgment 
which seems to have marked his policy even in the 
most stormy passages of his warlike life. Here, as 
on occasions elsewhere, the historian of Sleat seems 
to strike the true historical note. The Scottish King: 
was anxious to extend his sway over the whole of 
Scotland, and showed symptoms of a desire to grasp 
the mainland territories of Argyll, Kintyre, and 
Lorn.^ Other reasons also may have operated in 
causing Somerled to assume the aggressive against 
the King. It is a fair inference frc>m the history of 
the time that his action represented a movement on 
the part of the Celtic population to resist the pohcy 
of the Crown, which had for its aim to crush the 

1 Hugh Macdoiiald's MS. 


independent princes of Scotland in detail. Malcolm 
TV. is said to have invaded both Galloway and 
Moray in 1160, and to have introduced large 
changes into these regions by the removal of the 
native population and the introduction of the 
Southerner to occupy their places. That this may 
have been true to a limited extent need not be 
disputed ; but our faith in the statement is not 
strengthened when it comes to us on the authority 
of John of Fordun. Be this as it may, there is no 
doubt as to the proceedings taken by the Crown 
against the Celtic chiefs in 1160, and it is in the 
highest degree probable that Somerled, by his action 
in 1164, sought to make a diversion in their favour 
by invading Scotland in force. In addition to 
all this, there was the risk to which Somerled's 
own interests were exposed. He had suftered 
many provocations from Malcolm and his Min- 
isters, and so anticipating danger to his posses- 
sions and position from their threatening attitude, 
he resolved to take time by the forelock, 
and strike a decisive blow in self-defence. As a 
protest against the unprincipled greed of Malcolm 
the Maiden and the unscrupulous and grasping spirit 
of his advisers, Somerled in 1164 gathered a great 
host, 15,000 strong, from Ireland, Argyllshire, and 
the Isles, and with a fleet of one hundred and sixty- 
four galleys, sailed up the Clyde to Greenock, where 
he disembarked his force in the bay of St Lawrence. 
Thence he marched to Benfrew, where the King's 
army lay encamped. The records of the time are not 
very trustworthy, but such as they are there are 
two important inferences to be drawn from them 
which are helpful in arriving at a correct conclusion 
as to the events that supervened. In the hrst 


place, it is clear from the statements of the 
chroniclers that the King's force was numerically 
unfit to cope with the host that Somerled had 
brought to the field. In the second place, the 
undoubted result of the action was that Somerled 
was slain and his army dispersed. Had a battle 
been fought it is incredible that the small force 
apparently opposed to him would have sufiiced to 
baffle the tried valour and skilful leadership of 
the Thane of Argyll. Plence the ancient chroniclers^ 
call in tlie special intervention of heaven to account 
for the otherwise unaccountable result. On the 
whole, we are disposed to accept the traditional 
version as that which best fits in with all the known 
circumstances of the case. Feeling reluctant to join 
issues with the Highland host, and anticipating 
defeat in the open field, Malcolm's advisers fell on 
the cowardly and ignominious plan of assassinating 
the Island leader. To this end they bribed a mis- 
creant of the name of Maurice Macneill, a camp 
follower, and he being a near relative of Somerled, 
the latter had nothing to fear from his presence 
in the camp. This individual, coming in the guise 
of friendship, was admitted into Somerled's tent, 
and finding him off" his guard, stabbed him to the 
heart.^ The hero who was unconquered in the field 
was not proof against the assassin's knife, and his 
large army, on learning the fate of their trusted 
leader, melted away like a snow-wreath, betook 
themselves to their galleys, and sadly dispersed. 

No doubt a different account from this is given 
by the Scottish historians. Those who do not 

'■ Claouiclcs of MelrobC, p. l(ji) ; Wyiitoun, lUii ; Fortlouii, p. 2[>2, in 
fcikuue's HicitcjriaLis of Scotland. See Appendix, 
2 Hugh Macdonakrs MS. 


attribute the result to the direct intervention of 
Providence allege that Malcolm's army not only 
defeated, but v^ell-nio-h annihilated that of 
Somerled. Possibly the retreating host may 
have been harassed by the enemy, who hung 
upon their rear and cut off some stragglers in 
their flight, and this would have lent colour to 
the exaggerated tales of slaughter contained in 
the records of the age. It is difficult to conceive 
how — if Somerled's army, as alleged, was totally 
defeated at Renfrew — the territories of the rebel 
were neither annexed to the Crown nor awarded 
to the hungry Norman courtiers who were yearning 
to lay their hands upon them. On the contrary, 
Somerled's family suffered no diminution of their 
power. E/Cginald, Dugall, and Angus were all left 
in undisturbed possession of their father's extensive 
domains. We prefer Hugh Macdonald's tradition 
to the exaggerated, inconsistent, and imaginative 
declamations of the chroniclers, as bearing far more 
of the appearance of sober, historical truth. To the 
same authority we are indebted for the statement 
that the remains of the Thane of Argyll were taken 
at the King's expense to lona, and buried there 
with great pomp and ceremony ; but the tradition 
of the family has always been that Saddel, where 
Somerled had commenced the erection of a monastery 
which was afterwards completed by his son Peginald, 
was the last resting-place of the great Celtic hero. 

The Sleat historian tells us that Somerled was 
" a well -tempered man, in body shapely, of a fair 
piercing eye, of middle stature and of quick discern- 
ment." The reference to his stature contained in 
this quotation does not seem to harmonise with 
the description stereotyped in Highland tradition, 
according to which he is styled Somhcdrle Mor 



MacGillebhride. Yet the application of the epithet 
Mot may have arisen, not so much from physical size 
as from the general idea of greatness, the com- 
manding position of Somerled in the history of his 
race, and the description of Hugh Macdonald not 
improbably embodies a genuine and authentic 


Somerled was probably the greatest hero that 
his race has produced. It may seem strange that 
no Gaelic bard has sung of his exploits, l)ut in his 
day and long afterwards, Gaelic singers were more 
taken up with the mythical heroes of the Feinn 
than with the genuine warriors of their native land. 
Others of his line may have equalled him in personal 
bravery and military prowess ; but Somerled was 
more than a warrior. He possessed not only the 


courage and dash which are associated with the 
Celtic character ; he had the organising brain, the 
fertile resource, the art not only of winning battles, 
but of turning them to account ; that sovereign 
faculty of commanding the respect and allegiance of 
men which marks the true king, the able man of 
Thomas Carlyle's ideal. Without the possession of 
this imperial capacity he could never, in the face of 
such tremendous odds, have wrested the sovereignty 
of the Gael from his hereditary foes, and handed 
it to the Clan Cholla, to be their heritap"e for 
hundreds of years. He was the instrument by 
which the position, the power, the language of the 
Gael were saved from being overwhelmed by 
Teutonic influence, and Celtic culture and tradition 
received a new lease of life. He founded a family 
which played no ignoble part in Scottish history. 
If our faith in the principle of heredity is sometimes 
shaken by degenerate sons of noble sires, when the 
last links of a line of long ago prove unworthy heirs 
of a great past, our faith is confirmed in it by the 
line of princes that sat upon the Island throne, and 
who as a race were stamped with the heroic qualities 
which characterised the son of Gillebride. Somer- 
led's life struggle had been with the power of the 
Norseman, whose sun in the Isles he saw on the eve 
of setting. But he met his tragic fate in conflict 
with another and more formidable set of forces. 
This was the contest which Somerled bequeathed as 
a legacy to his successors. It was theirs to be the 
leading spirits in the resistance of the Gaelic race, 
language, and social life to the new and advancing 
order which was already moulding into an organic 
unity the various nationalities of Scotland — the 
ever-increasing, ever-extending power of feudal 




The Sons of Somerled. — Division of Patrimony. — Strife between 
Reginald and Angus. — Death of Angus. — Reginald Succeeds 
to his Estates. — Character of Reginald. — Question of 
Seniority. — Descendants of Dugall Mac Somerled. — The Sons 
of Reginald. — Descent of King Alexander upon Argyll in 
1221-2. — Descent in 1249.— Position of Ewin of Lorn. — 
Donald of Isla. — Angaxs Mor.— Scottish Aggression in Isles. — 
Roderick of Bute. — Haco's Expedition. — Battle of Largs. — 
Cession of Isles. — Position of the Island Lords. 

King Malcolm IY. of Scotland died in 1165, the 
year following Soraerled's death at Renfrew, and 
was succeeded by his brother, William the Lion. 
During the long reign of William (1166-1214) no 
further effort seems to have been made to subjugate 
Argyll and the Isles. The history of Somerled's 
descendants during the century subsequent to his 
death is involved in much obscurity. Though the 
career of the great Thane is in some respects 
shrouded in uncertainty, his personality and enter- 
prise gave such a fresh impulse to Celtic aspirations 
in the West that it were strange did we not possess 
certain clear historical outlines. When the curtain 
that fell upon the tragedy of his life's close rises 
again, we are still enveloped in mist, and the 
shadows cast upon the background of the historical 
stage by his successors are, while less imposing, not 
altogether so clearly defined. Somerled left a 
Celtic kingdom, partly inherited, but all won by 


the sword, extending from the Butt of Lewis to 
the most southerly point of Man ; but when the 
strong hand of the heroic ruler vanished, Godred, 
who for several years had been skulking in Norway, 
returned and resumed possession of Man and the 
Northern Isles. These latter comprised Lewis and 
Harris, Uist and Barra, then known as Innis Fadda, 
Skye, CoU,^ and other lesser Isles. 

Besides the three sons of Somerled by Bagnhildis, 
it is said that he had other sons. One of these, Gille- 
Galium, is supposed to have been slain at Eenfrew.^ 
Another son, by a Lowland woman, was named 
GalP MacSgillin, said to have been the progenitor of 
the Clan Gall of the Glens ; while the names of other 
two. Gillies' and Olave,^ have also been handed down. 
According to the Sleat historian, Somerled's oldest 
son bore his own name, and succeeded him as Thane 
of Argyll. In this statement he does not appear to 
have the support of any other authority, yet it 
seems to lend a certain confirmation to references in 
the Norwegian Sagas to a second Somerled who 
flourished during the early years of the ISth 
century. '^ This Somerled is spoken of as a 
Sudoreyan King, a cousin of the sons of Dugall 
MacSomerled, and was in all probability a grandson 
of the great Thane ; but which of Somerled's sons 
was his father it is, of course, impossible to say. It 
seems probable, on the whole, that descendants of 

^ Gregory is mistaken in including Coll among the possessions of Dugall 
MacSomerled. Coll was a seat of the Norwegian Reginald, and in the poem 
Baile Suthain Sith Eamhne, in the book of Fermoy, he is referred to as King 
of Coll. 

^ Chronicles of Man, 

^ Book of Clauranald in " Reliquifo Celticce," vol. II., p. 157. 

* According to Hugh JMacdonald, Gillies had lands in Kintyre. 

5 Hugh Macdonald's IMS. 

•^ Anecdotes of Olave the Black. 


Somerled MacGillebride, other than those by the 
daughter of the King of Man, inherited lands in the 
district of Oirthirghael, though all traces of their 
territorial position have disappeared. The reason 
why the light of history fails us utterly regarding 
them we shall consider further on. 

In the division of the Southern Isles and a 
portion of Oirthirghael among the sons of Somerled 
and Ragnhildis, the treaty between Somerled and 
Godred, in 1155/ was carried out in this wise: — 
Kintyre ^ and Isla, the patrimony of the Clan Cholla 
and the early seat of their power in Scotland, fell to 
the share of Reginald; Lorn, Mull, and Jura became 
Dugall's ; while Bute, with a part of Arran,^ and 
the Rough bounds, extending from Ardnamurchan 
to Glenelg, were bequeathed to Angus. The 
remaining portion of the North Oirthir, extending 
from Glenelg to Lochbroom, passed into the hands 
of the Lay Abbot of Applecross. 

The possessions thus apportioned among the 
three sons of Somerled — won by the might of their 
father's sword — were, undoubtedly, held by them 
as a free and independent principality. Whether 
their immediate descendants after 1222, the year 
of King Alexander's descent upon Argyll, owned 
the superiority of Scotland for their mainland 
possessions, is a question to be considered by- 
and-bye. That the sons of Somerled entered into 
possession of the Southern Isles, which had been 
wrested from Godred, owning allegiance neither to 
Scotland nor Norway, is an historical fact beyond all 
dispute. This proud sense of independence, which 

^ See p. 45. 

^ From the time of Miignus Barefoot, Kintyre was reckoneil one of the 

^ T)ie rest of Arran belonged to Reginald, 


brooked no superior, was perpetuated in the race 
even after the reahty had passed away, and led to 
the eventual downfall of the family of the Isles — a 
family characterised by Buchanan as '• clarissima et 
potentissima priscorum Scotorum gens." ^ 

The division of the Somerledian possessions does 
not appear to have given unqualified satisfaction. 
The partition of Arran especially was fraught with 
unfortunate results. Where lands are " compassed 
by the inviolate sea," boundaries are easily preserved, 
but the line dividing Arran into two equal shares 
would have been hard to observe without occasional 
friction and the stern arbitrament of war. Keg'inald 
having driven Angus and his sons out of both Bute 
and Arran, followed them into Garmoran, the 
northern possession of Angus. There, in the year 
1192,^ a battle was fought, in which Angus was 
victorious. Eighteen years thereafter (1210), Angus 
and his three sons were killed by the men of Skye.^ 
It does not follow from this that the fatal battle 
was fought in Skye, for undoubtedly that island, 
as well as Innis Fadda, were both at that time in 
the possession of Reginald, the Norwegian King of 
Man and the Isles. According to the author of the 
" Historical Account of the Family of MacDonald," 
published in 1819, Angus and his sons were killed at 
Moidart, which was a part of their hereditary 
possessions, probably in the act of repelling an 
incursion of Norsemen from the Isle of Skye, who 
still continued to infest the North Oirthir ; and this 
is, no doubt, the correct version of the end of this 
branch of the house of Somerled. 

^ " The most distinguished and powerful family of the ancient Scots." 
2 Chronicles of Man. ^ Gregory, p. ] 7, Annals of Ulster. 


Angus' male line having thus become extinct, 
his possessions passed over to Reginald and his son 
Roderick. James the son of Angus, however, left 
a daughter Jane, who married Alexander, eldest 
son of Walter, the High Stewart of Scotland. This 
led, in future years, to much trouble as regards the 
possession of the island of Bute. After the death of 
Angus and his sons in battle, the mainland and 
island possessions of the sons of Somerled were 
divided pretty equally between the families of 
Reginald and Dugall. The relations between these 
two branches of the Clan Cholla were never of the 
most cordial description, and even at that early date 
a misunderstanding arose as to the ownership of 
Mull, which lasted over 100 years. The house of 
Somerled, however, was all powerful in that region ; 
the voice of the Campbell was not yet heard in the 
land, and the families of Argyll and the Isles were 
vassals of the Clan Cholla. 

Reginald of Isla, according to the Irish historians, 
seems to have been popular both in Scotland and 
in Ireland, feared in war but loved in peace. The 
exigencies of the time often led him to the field 
of battle, sometimes on the defensive sometimes as 
the aggressor ; yet, as has often been true of the 
greatest heroes, he loved peace more than war, and 
we find him acting the part of peacemaker not only 
among his own people, but also on the other side of 
the Irish Channel. 

It is probably at this stage that we can most 
conveniently discuss and, so far as possible, dispose 
of the question as to which of the sons of Somerled 
was the older, Reginald or Dugall. The seniority of 
Dugall would not, for reasons that will afterwards 
appear, constitute tlie Clan Dugall the senior 


branch of the house of Somerled, and therefore the 
question, though one of hiterest, is not of serious 
importance. In those days the feudal law of 
primogeniture, by which the oldest son succeeds 
to his father's lands, was not operative in the Isles ; 
lands were gavelled ^ equally among the male 
members of a family, and in more than one case 
it is difficult to arrive at definite conclusions 
when questions as to seniority arise. It is only 
inferentially that we can form an opinion as to 
the point at issue. The Seanachies give us no 
assistance. M'Vurich is silent on the subject, 
althouD^h, in mentionino- the sons of Somerled, he 
names Dugall first. 

Hugh Macdonald, adopting what is with him a 
favourite role, bastardises Dugall, evidently with the 
view of placing beyond doubt or cavil the seniority 
of the house of Isla. Historians have followed one 
another slavishly in miaking Dugall the oldest of 
the sons of Somerled. One reason only can there 
be for the adoption of such a view. When the 
barons of Man and the Isles rose against Godred 
in 1155,^ it w^as Dugall who was carried through 
the Isles and proclaimed King. This has been 
taken as evidence of Dugall's seniority. It may 
very well be evidence of the contrary. Most prob- 
ably it was because he was the younger son that he 
was put forward as his mother's heir for the posses- 
sion of Man and the Isles, while Reginald, as the 
older son, was regarded as his father's successor in 
the hereditary domains of Oirthirghael. We have 
already stated that primogeniture did not rule in 

^ The word "gavel" is an English corruption of the Gaelic word 
" gabhail," which is still used in the Western Isles in the sense of " holding." 
^ See pp. 44-5 


the Isles as regards the inheritance of lands. Yet 
the head of the race, whether brother or son to the 
last chief, enjoyed certain privileges. Preferably to 
others he possessed those lands which had always 
been connected with the residence of the head of the 
house. Hence, although the territories of Somerled 
were divided in somewhat equal portions, it is a 
significant fact that the occupancy of the lands of 
Kintyre and Isla remained with the descendants of 
Reginald. The modern Campbeltown, which was 
the cradle of the Scottish monarchy, became in after 
times the chief seat of the lords of the Isles in the 
peninsula of Kintyre, and went under the name of 
Kinloch Kilkerran. It would thus appear that these 
lands, which were the seat of the Dalriadic power 
and the peculiar patrimony of the Clan Cholla, 
became after the days of Kenneth MacAlpin asso- 
ciated with that branch of the Scoto-Irish race which 
was represented by Somerled and his descendants. 
That Reginald and his posterity held this immemorial 
heritage of the Clan Cholla in preference to the line 
of Dugall seems to suggest the seniority of the house 
of Isla. Still further there is a prominence given in 
the records of the time to Reginald and his descend- 
ants, which clearly points to their being the chief 
inheritors of the name and honours of the house of 

Even if it were the case, which in our opinion 
it is not, that Dugall MacSomerled was the oldest of 
the three sons, that fact would not constitute the 
Clan Dugall, necessarily, the senior branch of the 
Clan Cholla. There are grave reasons for doubting 
whether the Clan Dugall, as represented by the 
head of that line for upwards of four hundred years, 
are at all descended from Dugall MacSomerled. A 


brief glance at the descendants of this Dugall may 
be helpful in the solution of the question. Dugall, 
son of Somerled, left three sons, Dugall Scrag, Dun- 
can, and another son named Uspac^ Hakon, who 
appears in the Norwegian Sagas. Uspac stood high 
in the confidence of King Haco, who made him a King 
in the Sudoreys. It is recorded by the same authority 
that in 1228-30, when the Norwegian forces came 
south to Isla Sound, the three brothers. Kings 
Uspac, Dugall, and Duncan, were already there with 
a large armament, and it is interesting to find refer- 
ence to the second Somerled as taking part in the 
expedition. The Sudoreyan princes invited the 
Norwegians to a banquet, but the latter having 
heard of the strong wine drunk at the Celtic 
symposia (does the potent national beverage possess 
this venerable antiquity ?), and having their sus- 
picions otherwise aroused, declined the proffered 
hospitality. A night attack was made on the 
Norsemen, when a considerable number of the 
Sudoreyans, Somerled among the rest, were killed. 
Dugall Scrag was taken prisoner and protected by 
Uspac, who does not appear to have been implicated 
in the fray. With this incident Dugall Scrag passes 
out of history. 

Shortly after this, Olave King of Man, invaded 
Bute, then in the possession of the Scots, with a fleet 
of 80 ships, and besieged the Castle of E-othesay. 
The Norwegians were eventually successful with a 
loss of 390 men, and Uspac Hakon, who was among 
the assailants, was mortally wounded by a stone 
hurled from the battlements. He survived only till 
he reached Kintyre, whence his body was borne to 

^ Anecdotes of Olave the Black. ^ Anecdotes of Clave the Black. 


After this, Duncan the son of Dugall MacSomer- 
led was the only member of the family who seems 
to have had any territorial position in the Isles ; 
in fact, so far as history records, he was the sole 
representative of the line who left behind him a 
traceable posterity. As Duncan de Lorn he 
witnessed a charter to the Earl of Athole, and 
as Duncan de Ergalita he signs the letter and 
oath to the Pope of the nobles of Scotland, 
on the treaty of Ponteland, in 1244.^ Duncan's 
son, King Ewin or, as he is designated in the 
Sagas, King John, was the son of this Duncan, 
and the representative of the family in 1263. 
Historians have assumed that King John or Ewin 
was the father of Alexander de Ergaclia who, with 
his son John, was the determined enemy of Bruce 
in the war of Scottish independence. Now it is 
almost as certain as any historical fact connected 
with so remote a period can be, that Ewin of Lorn, 
the son of Duncan, left no male issue. It seems 
clear that his line terminated with two heiresses, 
one of whom married the King of Norway and the 
other Alexander of Isla, son of Angus Mor. It is 
on record that Alexander of Isla, through his wife 
Juliana, possessed lands in the island of Lismore,*^ 
which was part of the lordship of Lorn, and that 
Edward I. summoned Edward Baliol before him for 
preventing them from enjoying possession of these 
lands. It is well established that, according to 
the feudal and Celtic laws of territorial possession, 
females could not inherit lands except on the failure 
of heirs male. Only because of such failure do we 
find, first Christina, and afterwards Amie Macruairi, 
in the line of Roderick, the son of Reginald, inherit- 

^ Kecords of Bcauly Piiory. '^ Orig. Par. 












1 ■ f 

^H^ ^^y>^fi "i^pmiF ^nji 

w^^J . 





■^^*«'-— =■ ■ 





ing the patrimony of the family. Hence the 
succession of Juh'ana of Lorn to a portion at 
least of her father's lands, forbids ns to believe that 
he left any sons, and strongly suggests tlie conclusion 
that the male descendants of Dugall MacSomerled 
terminated with Ewin. Supposing, however, for the 
sake of argument, not only that Dugall MacSomerled 
was the oldest son, but that Alexander de Ergadia, 
who flourished in the time of Bruce, was his direct 







- ^4!hj 




BBKl .^^^^^1 


descendant, this is very far from proving that the 
Clan Dugall are the senior branch of the Clan Cholla. 
In truth, such a conclusion is impossible in view of 
the fact that, in 1388 the line of Alexander de 
Ergadia terminated in an heiress, who brought over 
the lordship of Lorn to her husband, Jolni Stewart. 
It is thus clear to a demonstration that the Clan 
Dugall, of whom the family of Dunolly is the leading 
branch, cannot, on any supposition, be traced back 


in the male line to Dugall, the son of Somerled. 
Although we are not writing a history of the Clan 
Dugall, it is desirable that their real origin should, 
if possible, be pointed out, if for no other purpose 
than to give the Clan Donald their true position as 
the main branch of the Clan Cholla in the Western 
Highlands. An opportunity for looking at the 
question in its true bearings will immediately occur. 
Meantime our discussion of the question of seniority 
as between Keofinald and Duo^'all, the sons of 
Somerled, has necessarily led us to anticipate, and 
we must now take up the thread of our history 
where w'e dropped it. Reginald, the son of Somer- 
led, died in 1207. This is the date given by 
the Book of Clanranald,^ and is probably correct. 
The seal adhibited to his charter to Paisley Abbey 
is thus described : — " In the middle of the seal on 
one side, a ship filled with men-at-arms ; on the 
reverse side, the figure of an armed man on horse- 
back with a sword drawn in his hand."' By Fonia, 
daughter of the Earl of Moray, Beginald had three 
sons — Donald, Roderick, and Dugall. Most authori- 
ties mention only two sons, excluding Dugall ; nor 
do we find any record of him in tlie division of his 
father's lands. Yet the MS. of 1450,' the most 
valuable genealogical authority we possess, includes 
Dugall among the sons of Reginald ; and not only 
so, but traces the descent of the Clan Dugall to him 
instead of to the son of Somerled. 

As a matter of fact, and in view of all that has 
been said, this is the only theory of the descent of 
the Clan Dugall that appears on the evidence 

^ Reliquifc CelticfC, p. 157. 
" Grig. Scot., vol. I., p. 2. 

•* The Book of Balimolc agrees with the 1150 MS. in this respect, while 
the Book of Leocan derives the Clau Dugall frora Dugall MacSomerled. 


possible to adopt ; and the value of the testimony 
of the 1450 MS. on this question is immensely 
enhanced when we remember, that it was in the 
years during which the writer of that MS. flourished 
that the Dunolly family, the undoubted heads of 
their race, were invested by Stewart of Lorn in the 
possession of the lands from which they derive their 
designation, and ^\hich they have held down to the 
present day.^ 

According to the Irish annalists, the sons of 
Reginald were men of very different temper and 
calibre from their father. They were found, like 
him sometimes, among their Irish kinsmen, but 
never as messengers of peace. The following 
extract illustrates what manner of men they were : — 
" Thomas MacUchtry and the sons of Reginald, 
son of Somerled, came to Doire Challuim Chille 
with 70 ships, and the town was greatly injured 
by them. O'Domhnaill and they completely 
destroyed the country.'" 

Donald succeeded his father in the lordship of 
South Kintyre, Isla, and other island possessions ; 
while Roderick obtained North Kintyre,^ Bute, and 
the lands of Garmoran, extending from Ardna- 
murchan to Glenelg-, all of which formed the 
possessions of Angus MacSomerled ; Lochaber 
passing to the Comyns. 

Oirthirghael and the Isles were now divided into 
a number of little principalities, entirely in the 
possession of the house of Somerled and of Reginald 
of Man as feudatory of Norway. The vicinity of 
such enterprising neighbours could hardly fail to be 
irksome to the Scottish Kings, and the thirteenth 
century witnessed a number of efforts on their part 

^ Orig. Par. Scot. " Annals of Uic Four Masters. 

5 Orig. Par. Scot., vol. 11., p. 2J. 


to brin^' these regions into subjection. Alexander II. 
had no sooner ascended the throne in 1214, than 
the old disturbers of the realm, the Mac Williams 
and MacHeths, rose again in rebellion, and. were 
assisted by the potentates of the Isles. In 1221, 
after peace had been restored and the royal 
influence consolidated, Alexander, fired by re- 
sentment against the house of Somerled, made a 
descent upon Argyll with the view of carrying out 
a long cherished scheme for its con(piest. The 
elements however were unpropitious ; his fleet was 
driven back by a storm, and as winter was coming 
on the attempt meanwhile was abandoned. The 
following year the King fitted out a fresh expedition. 
According to John of Fordun and Wyntoun, who 
alone record the enterprise, the latter in doggerel 
lines, ^ Alexander, in the course of his campaign, was 
successful in conquering and enforcing the allegiance 
of the Celtic chiefs of Argyll. Many it is said 
submitted, gave hostages and large sums of money 
as an earnest of future allegiance ; while others less 
able to defend themselves, and dreadinp- the roval 
vengeance, abandoned their ]iossessions and fled — 
some to Galloway, where they afterwards proved of 
service to their kinsmen in that region ; others to 
the protection of their more fortunate kindred in the 
Isles. What the alleged conquest of Argyll in 1222 
actually amounted to, it is really diflicult to say, in 
the absence of historical testimony more reliable 
than that of the chroniclers referred to. That in 
some instances the descent of the Scots upon 
Argyll resulted in the displacement of the Gaelic 
chiefs, is in the nature of things probable enough. 
On such an hypothesis we can easily account for the 

^ See Appendix, 


disappearance of the descendants of Somerled, other 
than those by Ragnhildis, from a territorial position 
in Oirthirghael, a disappearance which would other- 
wise be somewhat difficult to explain. Whatever 
results the campaign of 1222 may have had in other 
respects, it made little or no impression upon the 
power or position of the Island Princes. As evidence 
of this we find Alexander II., after wintering in 
Aberdeen,^ coming back to the west of Scotland, and 
using every means diplomatic and otherwise to 
secure Argyll and the Isles. The Clan Cholla were 
still a formidable problem in that region. The Kino- 
had also to reckon with Norway, and he now sent 
ambassadors to the Court of Haco, empowering 
them to treat for the purchase of the Isles. Their 
proposals were treated with scant favour, and from 
that time down to 1249, matters in Argyll and the 
Isles continued very much in the same position. In 
that year Alexander, taking advantage of the death 
of the Norwegian King of Man and the Isles, col- 
lected a large force and proceeded to the Hebrides, 
declaring " that he would not desist until he had 
set his standard east on the cliffs of Thurso, and had 
reduced under himself all the provinces which the 
Norwegian monarch possessed to the westward of 
the German Ocean.""' 

The King sailed round Kintyre with his fleet 
expecting to find Donald of Tsla overawed by such 
a formidable and powerful armament; but it does not 
appear that the island lord showed any symptoms of 
submission. The King now made overtures to Ewin 
of Lorn, whom he sought, unsuccessfully, to win 
from the Norwegian alliance. Ewin had recently 
been entrusted by Haco with the administration 

^ W3'utoun's Clronicle, JBuuk VII., c. 9. - Sagu of Hakoii ]V. 


of affairs connected with the Norwegian possessions 
in the Isles. He held the castle of Kiarnaburo-h on 
the West Coast of Mull and other strongholds in 
the name of the King of Norway; and having set 
before himself the aml:>itious design of becoming 
master both of Man and the Isles, he was not likely 
to take part in Alexander's canij^aign for a reward 
which must, in any case, have fallen short of what 
he hoped ultimately to secure. Whether Alexander 
in these circumstances would have pursued the 
campaign further or to a successful issue it is 
difficult to say, for death arrested all his plans in 
the small island of Kerrera in the 52nd year of his 
age. His army broke up and the campaign closed. 
Ewin of Lorn, taking advantage of the lull that 
followed the storm, made elaborate preparations 
towards the accomplishment of his scheme of taking- 
possession of Man and the Isles. He invaded Man 
and declared himself King; but his reign was short- 
lived. He had no sooner taken possession of the 
throne than a messaoj'e was sent to Haco informing' 
him of the position of affairs. The Norwegian King- 
invoked the aid of Donald of Isla and his brother 
lloderick, and this having been promptly and 
effectively given, Ewin, who was obnoxious to 
the great majority of the Manxmen, was driven 
from the Island, and compelled to take refuge in liis 
own domains.^ Donald, by rendering this tiniely 
assistance, seemed the friendship of the King of 
Norway, and the alliance which was thus cemented 
between the family of Isla and the Norwegian Crown 
continued without interruption until the close of the 
Norwegian occupation of the Isles. 

' Cliiuuioles of Miui : Tui-faeus. 


King Alexander III. being a minor for many 
years after his father's death, and Ewin of Lorn 
having been humbled by his recent defeat, Donald 
of Isla had little to fear from enemies from without, 
and during the remainder of his life we hear of him 
no more as a man of war. That his life had been a 
stormy one, and not altogether free from the crimes 
and excesses common in that age, the traditional 
historian leads us to infer.^ The same authority 
informs us that he and his uncle Dugall having dis- 
corded, probably about some barren promontory in 
Mull, the latter was killed by Donald. After this 
King Alexander sent a messenger to Argyll, Sir 
William Rollock, to demand of Donald allegiance for 
his lands. Sir William got decapitation for his 
pains. Still further, and to fill the cup to the brim, 
this man of blood and iron put to death Galium 
Aluinn, the son of Gillies, the son of Somerled, 
and banished Gillies himself to Ireland, where some 
of his descendants remain to this day. It is 
not surprising that these deeds of violence, con- 
sidered enormities even in an age when might 
was right, combined with his early depredations 
in the North of Ireland, should when reflection 
came have caused qualms of conscience in Donald's 
breast, which only the unction of the supreme fount 
of spiritual authority on earth could assuage. To 
Rome, therefore, the conscience-stricken chief made 
a pilgrimage. 

We trust that in such an emergency the elements 
were propitious, and that, after a long voyage, when 
the penitent descendant of Conn arrived in the 
Eternal City, accompanied by seven priests — a 
sacred number of a sacred order — he was not left 

1 Hugh Macdouald's MS. 


outside by the successor of St Peter longer than the 
interests of discipL'ne absolutely demanded. Donald, 
having made his confession in the only tongue with 
which he was familiar, and this having been made 
intelHgible to the Holy Father by the learned clerics 
from the Isles, received the absolution that he 
craved. Having thus obtained the forgiveness of 
the Church, it would appear that Donald, in his 
future relations with that body, brought forth fruits 
worthy of repentance.^ Like his father and many 
of his successors, he enriched the Church with 
valuable gifts of land."-' From this Donald the Clan 
takes its name, a fact which indicates his prominence 
in the history of his race, and the impression he 
created on the age in which he flourished. It is also 
observable that in his time, or more probably shortly 
after it, fixed patronymics came into existence in 
the Highlands, while in the Lowlands tlie surnames 
adopted were generally territorial. The collateral 
branches of the house of Somerled after Donald 
were more or less independent of one another, 
and in order to avoid confusion, such patronymics 
as Macruairi, MacDugall, Mac A.llister, and others 
became fixed. After this period, or at anyrate after 
the middle of the fourteenth century, there is no 
record of a new patronymic springing from the 
house of Somerled. The word Donald, which in 
Gaelic is DomltnuU, appears in its oldest form as 
Domvall = \)nmno Valdos, "a world wielder."^ 

According to the historian of Sleat, Donald died 
at Skipness in 1289, but this date is clearly 
incorrect, for many years before then his successor 
was head and representative of the family. The 

' What amount uf cicdfiice is to lie attaclud Lu Uii.-s sLiuy it i« ilillicult Lo 
say. It (l(jc.s nut jioHscs.-i inucli ex facie inubability, 
^ Orig. Tar. Scot., Chart, uf Paisley. 
^ Vide Book of ])ecr. 


date of his death is very probably prior to 124'J, 
for before that date we find his son Angus giving 
a charter for part of his lands in Kintyre.^ He 
was buried in that sacred isle in which, after life's 
fitful fever, many of the Kings of Tnnse-Gall 
peacefully repose. By a daughter of Walter, the 
High Steward of Scotland, he had two sons — 
Angus, afterwards known as Angus Mor, and 

During the minority of Alexander III., compata- 
tive quietness reigned over Argyll and the Isles. 
It was different in other parts of Scotland. The 
kingdom was torn asunder by factions among the 
nobility, and it was not until 11^62, when the 
young King came of age, that comparative order 
was restored. Once more the idea of annexing the 
Isles became the policy of the Crown ; and Alexander 
III., adopting the methods of his father, used every 
means, both by conciliation and aggression, to 
bring the Celtic chiefs of the west under his control. 
He made special efforts to secure the allegiance of 
Angus Mor of Isla, and seems so far to have suc- 
ceeded in disarming the opposition of the Island 
lord,^ He held his infant son Alexander as 
hostage,^ and an instrument was drawn out declar- 
ing the instant forfeiture of Angus if he deserted 
the King's cause. The hollow allegiance proved of 
short duration. 

^ Orig. Par. Scot., Kilkerrau. 

^ Matth. Paris, 770. Autiquariun Transactions, 3C7-8. Scriptum 
obligatorium Anegi Douonaldi quod exhaeredetur si furisfecerit contra regem 
Scotiae. — Sir Joseph Ayloffe's Calendar of Ancient Charters, p. 328. Litera 
baronum de Ergadia quod fideliter servient regi sub poena exliaeredatioiiis 
contra Anegum filium Doveualdi, quod omnes insurgent contra ipsuui, si nou 
fecerit voluntatem regis. — Ibid, p. 342. 

^ In the Scottish Chanibei-lain's Accounts there is the followiug entry : — 
" For the expenses of the son of Angus, who was the son of Donald, with liis 
nurse and a waiting woman for two weeks, the King jjaid 79 shillings and nine 


For some time matters had been ripening for a 
decisive conflict between Scotland and Norway as to 
the possession of the Isles, We have already seen 
that, after the death of Angus MacSomerled and his 
sons in Moidart in 1192, their possessions including 
Bute, passed to Keginald, and thereafter to his son 
E-oderick. As already pointed out, James the son 
of Angus MacSomerled left a daughter, who married 
Alexander, son and heir of Walter Stewart of Scot- 
land, and he in his wife's name claimed the island of 
Bute. Roderick resisted this aggression with all 
the force at his command, but he was ultimately 
disj)ossessed and outlawed. At the same time, in 
the North-west of Scotland, events were hastening 
the inevitable crisis. An assault was made upon 
the Norwegian Kingdom of Man and the Isles by 
Ferchar Macintaggart, a son of the Red Priest of 
Applecross, and the fii-st of the Earls of Ross of 
that family. He had been knighted by Alexander 
II. for his services in quelling an insurrection in 
Moray, ^ and by the same King he was advanced 
to the dignity of Earl of Ross for services rendered 
in the suppression of a rising of the men of Galloway.^ 
Macintaggart and several of his vassals made a 
ruthless descent upon Skye. According to the 
Norse Sagas, they sacked villages, desecrated 
churches, and in wanton fury raised children on 
the points of their spears and shook them until 
they fell to the ground. Scottish aggressiveness 
had thus, both north and south, displayed such 
rapacity and violence that the Island Chiefs, having 
taken counsel together, resolved to solicit the inter- 
vention of Norway. From this conference Ewin of 

^ Chrouk-a de Mailios, 117. 
2 Clirouica dc Mailros, 145. Orig. Par. Scot., vol. II., 4S6. 


Lorn absented himself. Smarting under the 
remembrance of the treatment formerly dealt out 
to him by Haco, he seemed disposed to make 
common cause with Alexander. 

Haco, on having been informed of the outrages 
perpetrated on his vassals in the Northern Isles, 
resolved upon immediate action. Having equipped 
a large fleet, he set sail from Herlover on the 7th 
July, and coming by Shetland and Orkney, he 
arrived in the Isles about the middle of August. In 
Skye he was joined by the barons of the North Isles, 
and, going south by Mull to Kerrera, by Dugall,^ 
the son of Roderick. Angus Mor of Isla and Kintyre 
soon afterwards joined the Norwegian forces, and 
Allan, the son of Roderick, was also associated with 
them in the campaign.^ All the jDrinces of the House of 
■Somerled, with the exception of Ewin of Lorn, appear 
to have formed an alliance with the Norwegians in 
this memorable expedition. Roderick of Bute, who 
had been their envoy to Norway, accompanied the 
Norsemen on their voyage to the Sudoreys, and 
during the hostilities that ensued the knowledge of 
the western seas which his piratical career had 
enabled him to acquire proved of much service. 
The losses and indignities which he had suffered 
at the hands of the Scottish King and his nobles 
spurred him on to many revengeful deeds. 

Divisions of Haco's fleet were sent hither and 
thither to devastate and plunder on the coasts of 
Argyll, led principally by Angus Mor, Roderick, and 
his sons Dugall and Allan. Sailing up Loch Long, 
and drawing their boats across the isthmus of 
Tarbat, they came to Loch Lomond, and penetrating 
to the country of Lennox, on the far side of that 

^ Haco's Expedition, 77 '■' Ibid. 


famous loch, they laid it waste with fire and sword. 
The result of the early part of Haco's expedition was 
the re-establishment of the Norwegian authority in 
the Northern Isles and the restoration of Bute to 

Several overtures for peace passed between Haco 
and Alexander, but with no definite result. Delay 
was the policy of the Scots, and as the equinoctial 
gales were within measurable distance — the summer 
being past — time was in their favour. Haco w^as 
far from the base of operations, and the difficulty of 
maintaining his grasp of the Isles on the flank of a 
growing power like Scotland, demanded sacrifices 
more than commensurate with the interests at 
stake. One struggle more was, how^ever, to take 
place. The battle of Largs was by no means the 
decisive conflict which it was described to have been. 
The exaggerated accounts of Scottish historians, 
whose imaginations leave 25,000 Norsemen dead 
on the fleld, are unworthy of belief On that 
memorable occasion, doubtless, the Scots led by 
their valiant King fought with determined courage ; 
but the battle on land was indecisive, and were it 
not that the elements rose in their fury, driving the 
fleet of Haco from the coast and dispersing it, 
victory might have rested on the Norwegian aims. 
Be this as it may, the battle of Largs did not in any 
sense result in the conquest of the Western Isles by 
Scotland. The cession of the Isles was accomplished, 
not by conquest, but by di^Dlomatic negotiations, 
carried to a successful issue in 1266, three 
years afterwards. The terms of agreement were 
that 4000 merks sterling be paid to Norway, 
together with an annual tribute or quit-rent of 

' Haco's Expedition, p. 65. 


100 merks sterling, called the Annual of Norway, 
to be paid in the Church of Saint Magnus in 
Orkney. The King of Man became a vassal of 
Alexander, and the parties to the Treaty undertook 
their respective obligations under a penalty of 
10,000 merks, to be exacted by the Pope. Per- 
mission was accorded to the Norse inhabitants of 
the Isles either to emigrate to Norway or, if they 
preferred it, to remain under the new conditions. 
It is probable, though history does not record the 
fact, that many availed themselves of this permission 
to return to Norway. 

From the generous terms which Alexander 
offered to his opponents in the Isles and on the 
mainland, it is clear that he did not feel altogether 
secure in the possession of his new dominions, and 
thus believed a conciliatory policy to be the safest 
and best. John of Fordun states that a military 
-force was sent to the Isles against the chiefs who 
had joined Haco, and that some of them were 
executed and all reduced. Fortunately for them- 
selves, they were only executed in John of Fordun's 
imagination. What we find, on the contrary, is 
that even Roderick, the prime mover of Haco's 
expedition, continued in possession of all his exten- 
sive territories, with the exception of Bute, which 
he had to resign. If any one deserved hanging, 
from the Scottish point of view, Roderick was the 
man. His fate was a very different one. His 
family became known afterwards as the Macruairis 
of Garmoran and the North Isles. They were often 
styled de Insulis, as were other cadets of the house 
of Somerled for centuries thereafter — the main line 
alone using the designation de He. Ewin of Lorn, 
who although hostile to Norway seems to have 


preserved a judicious neutrality, continued to enjoy 
his ancestral possessions, while Angus Mor of Isla 
remained unmolested in his extensive territories. 

It is not easy to define with clearness the exact 
relation of the House of Somerled to Norway and 
Scotland before and after the years 1263-66. 
The Southern Isles having been handed down by 
Somerled as an independent possession, were similarly 
held by his sons and grandsons. There are certain 
passages in the Saga on Haco's expedition, which 
convey the impression that these Southern Isles were 
re-conveyed to Norway. It is stated that Angus 
Mor was willing to surrender his lands to Haco, who 
afterwards, we are told, " bestowed Ila, taken by his 
troops, on the valiant Angus, the generous distributor 
of the beauteous ornaments of the hands." ^ It can- 
not be true that the territories of Angus Mor were 
both willingly surrendered by him, and at the same 
time taken from him by force. The series of events 
leading to the battle of Largs ; the mission of 
Roderick to Norway as the ambassador of the Island 
chiefs; Haco's response to their representations in 
the equipment of his great armament, all this forbids 
the sup2)osition of any hostile movement against the 
Island Lords. If Haco desired their loyal co-opera- 
tion, it would have been bad policy to begin with 
a forcible annexation of their possessions. The 
association of Haco with the princes of the House 
of Somerled was neither more nor less than the 
formation of a league, offensive and defensive, to 
repel the aggressiveness of the Scottish realm. 
If Norway ceded the Southern Isles to Scotland 
in 1266, she gave over what she never possessed 
since these Isles were wrested from Godred of 

» The Raven's Ode, p. r»7. 


Man in 1156. There is not a scrap of 
evidence to show that from the days of Somerled 
down to Bruce's Charter to Angus Og, a period 
of 150 years, there was any effective acknowledg- 
ment of superiority by the princes of the Southern 
Isles either to Norway or Scotland, if we except Bute 
alone. It is now evident that a new chapter in the 
history of the Isles is opening. The feudal system 
has, theoretically at least, knit into a complete whole 
the social fabric of the Scottish nation. But, with 
the people of the Highlands, and particularly with 
the Lords of the Isles, the superiority of the Crown 
was but a name, and for hundreds of years there was 
witnessed a continual struggle on the part of the 
Celtic system to assert itself against the claims of 
feudal Scotland. In this struggle the Kings of 
Innse-Gall were the principal actors. Circumstances 
at times may have compelled them to accept of 
charters for their lands and render an insincere 
allegiance ; but the traditions of independence 
long survived, and are largely accountable for the 
turbulence and disorder that mark the history of 
the Scottish Highlands. 




Death of Alexander III., and subsequent Anarchy. — Angus Mor's 
Relation to Scottish Parties. — Convention of Estates Settling 
Crown. — Angus Mor favours the Bruce Interest. — Death of 
Angus Mor. — Division of Territories. — Alexander of Isla 
Supports England. — Defeat by Bruce, Captivity, and Death. 
— Angus Og joins Pruce. — Bannoekburn. — Death of Angus 

Alexander III. lived for twenty-two years after the 
battle of Largs. His death, in 1284, deprived Scot- 
land of one of its wisest rulers, in whose time she 
made considerable progress in settled government and 
the arts of peace. His tragic end was the cause of a 
series of disasters unparalleled in the darkest period of 
Scottish history. It was felt by the thoughtful 
spirits of the time that the land was on tlie brink of 
unprecedented afflictions : — 

When Alexandyr our king was dede 
"^rhat Scotland led in lowe and le, 
Away was sons of ale and brede 
Of wync and wax, of gamyn and gle. 
Oure gold is changed into ledc — 
Christ born into virgynyte 
Succour Scotland and remede 
That stodt is in perplexyte.^ 

The death of Alexander's heiress, the Maid of 
Norway, on her way to Scotland, in 1290, introduced 
still furtiier confusion into the aftairs of the realm, 

' Wyntouii, 


^^ i'S? 



'^<s '^?a' 



and Edward I., one of the ablest, as well as most 
ambitious, of English soldiers and statesmen, sought 
to bring the distracted country to acknowledge the 
claim of paramount authority advanced by England 
since the days of William the Lion, but never actually 
admitted. The claims of Balliol and Bruce to the 
crown ; the short and humiliating reign of the former ; 
the valiant stand for Scottish independence made by 
Sir William Wallace ; the rise, the struggles, the 
hardships, the eventual triumj)h of the younger 
Bruce, and finally his vindication of his country's 
freedom, all these followed one another in close and 
somewhat rapid succession. 

The light which the records of the time throw 
upon the relationship subsisting between the Chief 
of the Clan ChoUa and the other leaders in the 
political turmoil of that period is somewhat dim and 
uncertain. It is difficult, therefore, if not impossible, 
to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the exact 
position and attitude of the Island Chief amid so 
many conflicting and tumultuous elements. Refer- 
ence has already been made to the state of matters 
in the Highlands and Islands at the time of Haco's 
expedition, and the allocation of lands that followed 
on the Scoto-Norse treaty of 1266. The assertion of 
independence characteristic of the Clan Cholla is borne 
out by the treatment meted out to Angus Mor of Isla 
by Alexander III. Angus, as a matter of policy, had 
espoused the cause of Haco of Norway rather than 
that of Alexander of Scotland. The formidable arma- 
ment, headed by Haco, appeared more than a match 
for the Scottish fleet, and Angus Mor, consulting the 
interests and independence of his own domains, 
unhesitatingly threw in his lot with what seemed to 
be the stronger power. In any case, whether the 


victory lay with Alexander or Haco, Angus would 
probably have held his own. 

King Alexander, however, notwithstanding the 
opposition of the Island Chief, does not seem to 
have interfered effectively with his territorial posi- 
tion. There are indications, doubtless, that towards 
the end of Alexander's reign Angus appears in 
relations towards the crown which are distinctly of 
a hostile nature. Evidence of this is afforded by 
letters which were addressed to the other barons 
of Argyll, in 1282, calling upon them to serve the 
King faithfully against Angus Jilius Dovenaldi under 
pain of being disinherited.^ If Angus exhibited on 
this occasion a spirit of insubordination against the 
State, he was not solely responsible for the disturb- 
ances which arose in Argyll and the Isles in 1482. 
In tliese the MacDougalls of Lorn and their allies 
were largely involved, and the disorder seems to 
have arisen to such a height as to demand the 
interference of the Earl of Buchan, who was the 
Constable of Scotland.^ Beyond this there is nothing 
to shew that the Chief of the Clan Cholla was 
seriously involved in the intrigues of the period, or 
that he was keenly or aggressively associated with 
any of the factious elements into which the Scottish 
nation was then unhappily divided. That Angus 
Mor was, shortly after this, on friendly terms with 
King Alexander appears from the circumstance that 
he was one of the three nobles of Argyll who, in 
1284, attended the Convention of Estates convened 
to settle the succession to the throne, the other two 
being Alexander MacDugall of Lorn and Allan 
Macruari of Garmoran.^ At this meeting Margaret, 

^ Act Pari. Scot. Appendix. - llymer's Fosdera, vul. II., p. 205. 

^ Kymer's Focdera, p. 760. 




commonly called the Maid of Norway, grand- 
daughter of the King, was declared heiress to the 
throne. It is difficult to account for the presence 
at this meeting of such men as Angus Mor and 
his kinsmen, whose aims proved afterwards to be 
diametrically opj)osed to those of the King and the 
majority of his Parliament. From what followed in 
subsequent years, we are warranted in concluding 
that the presence of the descendants of Somerled at 
the Convention in 1282 did not arise from sincere 
concurrence in the decision arrived at, but from the 
desire to conform to the royal summons. Another 
Parliament met at Scone in April, 1286 — about two 
years after the King's death — at which six guardians 
of the realm were appointed. In this Parliament a 
keen discussion took place between the partisans of 
Bruce and Balliol regarding the succession to the 
throne, which resulted in the formation of a strong 
party against the succession of the Maid of Norway. 
In September of the same year a meeting of this 
party took place at Turnberry, the seat of the 
elder Bruce, and among those present were Angus 
of Isla and his son, Alexander. Again, in 1288, 
when the Council of the Regency came to be 
divided in opinion regarding the succession, the 
Chief of Clan Cholla formed a bond of association 
with James, High Steward of Scotland, John his 
brother, Walter Earl of Menteith, and his two 
sons, the Earl of Dunbar, and others who favoured 
the claims of Bruce. ^ There is thus no evidence, 
actual or inferred, but rather the opposite, that 
Angus Mor ever played a part inimical to the 
interests of the family of Bruce, although the 
frailties of old age prevented his interposing 
actively on their behalf The testimony of history 

1 CiiiiiraniUa History, 181!l, p. :J1. 


is clear in favour of the view that he continued 
steadfast in his support of the claims of the elder 
Bruce, while he was equally consistent in his 
opposition to those of Balliol, even after the latter 
had been raised to the shadowy honour of king- 
ship as the vassal of Edward I. In 1292 King 
John Balliol ordered Alexander of Argyll and his 
baillies of Lochaw to summon Sir Angus, the son 
of Donald, and others to do him homage within 
fifteen days after Easter wheresoever he might be 
within Scotland, Though his citation was repeated 
in 1293, Angus Mor of Isla seems to have given no 
response either to the one or the other/ He lived 
for a part of the last decade of the 13th century ; but 
though, with Byron, we " like to be particular in 
dates," the exact year of his death cannot easily 
be determined. From the meagre annals of his 
time, we can gather that Angus was not behind 
his predecessors in those characteristics of courage 
and chivalry that always distinguished the chiefs of 
Clan ChoUa. He died, according to the Book of 
Clanranald, at his seat in Isla, and was buried at 
" Columkill, the sacred storehouse of his pre- 
decessors, and guardian of their bones." 

The extensive territories of Angus Mor were 
divided among his sons. Alexander succeeded hun 
in Isla and other territories on the mainland of 
Argyll ; Angus received the lordship of Kintyre ; 
while the lands of Ardnamurchan were bestowed 
by King Balliol upon John Spraiigach,^ the 
youngest of his sons. 

Alexander of Isla appears for the fii'st time on 
the historical stage with his father at the meeting 
already referred to, at Turnberry, to further the 
Bruce interest. In 1291, the next time he comes 

' Scot. Act. Pari. - SpraiiKuch signifies the "bold." 


before us, he is found acting an entirely different 
character, giving the oath of allegiance to the 
English King.^ He had become closely allied by 
marriage with the family of Lorn, and through 
them associated with the English interest, and 
although in his father's lifetime he does not 
appear to have taken a leading part on either side, 
now, as the struggle becomes keener, we find him 
throwing the whole weight of his power and 
influence into the scale of southern aggression. 
There were, at an early stage of the conflict, many 
letters addressed to him from the Eng-lish Court 
and in the interests of the English party, and from 
the rewards which afterwards followed, the services 
which he rendered to that cause seem to have been 
very considerable.^ 

Although the House of Isla has at this stage 
begun to take the part of England in the eflbrt 
to accomplish the conquest of Scotland, it is only 
on an inadequate view of the situation that the 
historian can pronounce its representatives to be 
lacking in true patriotism. The Scottish claim to 
the Western Isles was of too recent date to admit 
of a strong feeling of loyalty to the Crown in that 
region ; and to accuse the Island princes of that time 
of a lack of patriotism in the part they played is a 
pure anachronism, and ignores the political condi- 
tions of the time. Besides all this, it must not be 
forgotten that the sympathies of the Lords of the 
Isles must have been with the old Celtic system, 
which was only gradually disappearing before the 
influence of Teutonic culture ; that they regarded 

^ Similiter Alf^xander de Agarithell doniinus de Lorun & Alexander de 
Isles, filius Anegu filii Donevauldi, facranientum prestiterunt de se fideliter, 
&c. — AylofFe's Cal. of Ancient Charters, p. 291. 

- Pcedera Anglia. 


the Norman barons who had supplanted the old 
Mormaors not as the real children of the soil, but 
as strangers and interlopers in the land, and that 
the Crown itself, as the keystone in the arch of 
feudalism, must have appeared to them in the 
light of a comparatively modern institution, and 
lacking in the lustre of a venerable antiquity. 
Hence there is nothing that need suprise us in 
the fact that, after the death of Angus Mor, his 
son and successor, Alexander of Isla, is found 
upon the side opposed to Scottish independence. 

In the year 1295 we find the English King 
summoning King John Balliol before him to answer 
for withholding the lands of Lismore from Alexander 
de Insults et Juliance uxore sua} When Edward 
received the submission of the Scottish nobility in 
1296, we are told that a grant of one hundred 
pounds worth of land was given to Alexander of 
Isla for services rendered to the English King.^ We 
find still further that Alexander held the office of 
Admiral of the Western Isles under the Eno^lish 
Crown, after the ignominious termination of Balliol's 
reign, and it appears that the position was not by 
any means a sinecure. From letters addressed to 
the English King in 1297,^ it is evident that his 
lieutenant, however strenuously he exercised his 
commission, found it well nigh an impossible task 
to quell the insubordination and turbulence of the 
Western chiefs. Among the notables accused of 
lawless excesses in regions subject to the authority 
of Edward, there is reference to Roderick, the son of 
Allan, grandson of Koderick of Bute ; also to Ranald, 
another son of Allan, and brother of the said 

1 Rotuli Scotiao, vol. L, p. 21. ^ Patent Roll 24, Ed. L, 7, 1296, Sep. 12. 
^ Anderson's Historical Documents of Scotland, vol. IL, p. 187. 



Roderick, as well as to Lachlan MacRuari, probably 
a brother of the former two/ The MacRuari family- 
seem to have inherited a large share of the piratical 
tendencies of the ancient Vikings, and we find these 
Highland rovers, in 1297, invading and carrying 
slaughter and depradations into the islands of 
Skye and Lewis, and burning the ships in the 
service of the King. It is against Alexander of 
Lorn, however, also known as de Ergadia, as 
the arch offender, the leader and instigator in these 
irregularities, that the King's Admiral makes the 
chief complaint ; and this is rather a singular 
fact, in view of the strong support which, very 
shortly thereafter, was given by Alexander and his 
son John to the English interest. In the previous 
year, 1206, Edward had received Alexander's sub- 
mission, along with that of other Scottish noblemen, 
at Elgin, and he seems to have been subjected to a 
short term of imprisonment ; but immediately after 
his liberation he, along with his accomplices, com- 
mitted the crimes against the lieges to which the 
Lord of the Isles makes reference. One of his 
letters he winds up with a mild reminder of 
expenses incurred in the various expeditions con- 
ducted that year in the King's service, as well as 
to a sum of 500 pounds promised him the previous 
year, but not yet paid, showing that the sinews 
of war, even in that far past time, were no less a 
necessity than they are now. It is also interesting 
to note that, at the end of another letter, in which 
he invokes the royal aid in bringing the culprits to 
justice, he seeks to be excused for not having his 

1 Ranald we take to be here the equivalent of the Latin Rolandus, it and 
Lachlan being MacRuari names, and to be met with in the genealogy of the 
1450 MS 


own proper seal in his possession, and thus having 
to adhibit to " these presents " the seal of Juliana, 
his wife.-^ 

From the foregoing circumstances it appears that 
Alexander de He had received ample recognition of 
his services to the King of England, a recognition 
which stimulated him to still more zealous efforts in 
his jDatron's cause. From 1297 to 1308 we find no 
further mention of Alexander, though in the interval 
it is likely enough he did not allow his sword to rust 
in its sheath. In 1306 Kobert Bruce was crowned 
at Scone, a King without a kingdom, and this was 
the beginning of a career as interesting as the most 
thrilling pages in the history of chivalry and 
romance. The enemies of his house now draw 
closer to one another, and a strong combination 
was formed against the heroic King. Alexander 
of Isla was a powerful and important factor 
in this combination. So in 1308 we find him 
fighting against Bruce in the district of Galloway, 
aided by MacDowall, lord of that region. This 
district continued obstinately to resist the King's 
authority and was at the time occupied by English 
troops. Bruce sent his brother Edward against 
them, and he prosecuted the campaign with such 
vipfour and success that he soon reduced the 
country, defeated the combined forces of Sir 
Roland of Galloway and Alexander of Isla on 
the banks of the Dee, and compelled the inhabi- 
tants to swear allegiance to his brother the King.^ 
In the pursuit that followed the dispersion of the 
Gallowegians and the Islesmen, Edward Bruce took 
prisoner " The Prince of the Isles. "^ Alexander, 

* Historical Documents of Scotland. - Rj'iucr's Focdera. 

^ Fordun a Hcarue, p. 1005, 


.•/f^mny ^op.^ 





however, very soon escaped from Edward Bruce's 
custody, and betook himself to the stronghold of 
Castle Swen, in North Knaj)dale.^ This fortress 
commanded the entrance to Lochs wen, and was 
regarded as the key to the districts of Knapdale 
and Glassary. As such, it was deemed a position 
of the greatest importance. In this Castle King 
Robert Bruce, fresh from his victory over Alexander 
of Lorn at the Pass of Ben Cruachan, besieged the 
Lord of the Isles, and Alexander, after defending 
himself for several days with the utmost determina- 
tion and bravery, was obliged to surrender to the 
King. Bruce sent him forthwith a prisoner to 
Dundonald Castle in Kintyre, where he is said 
to have died soon after. At all events we hear 
no more of Alexander of Isla in the struggle in 
which he had taken so prominent a part, and he 
falls to be buried out of sight amid the ruins of 
the cause he had so strenuously supported. The 
fortunes of war had been unfavourable to him and 
to his family, and the representation and honours 
of Siol Chuinn pass for ever from their grasp. 
Alexander left four sons — Reginald, Black John, 
Angus, and Charles. These and their progeny, 
victims of the fate which raised a younger brother 
to the dignity and honour of their father's house, 
lost the premier position in the Clan Cholla, though 
undoubtedly in the light of primogeniture they were 
the senior family of the line of Somerled. Whether 
they preserved any vestige of their ancestral pos- 
sessions ; whether in the subsequent history of the 
Clan their descendants left behind them a local 

^ In Buchanan's Account of the Campaign in Galloway, he mistakenly 
refers to Alexander as Donaldus himlanus. The Lords of the Isles are a'l 
Donald with this historian. 


habitation and a name, or whether through the lack 
of territorial ^jre6'^i(/e and poHtical influence the 
family and name sank into insignificance, is a question 
which, meanwhile, must be left unanswered, as it 
will more fictingly fah to be dealt with under the 
genealogical section of this work. 

Angus Og Macdonald succeeded his brother 
Alexander, in 1308, both in his lands and in the 
chiefship of the Clan. In tracing his career, we 
must again traverse a portion of the ground of 
general Scottish history embraced in the period 
in which his predecessor flourished. In 1301 w^e 
find him equally zealous wdth his brother in his 
efforts to hold the Western Isles of Scotland in 
subjection to the English Crown, and along wdth 
Hugh Bisset he appears in a capacity somewhat 
similar to that which Alexander occupied four years 
previously.^ In a letter addressed to the English 
King, apparently written in October of that year, 
he reports that up to the Lord's day immediately 
preceding Michaelmas, he and the said Hugh Bisset 
had been with the English fleet in the island of 
Bute, and that, at the time he ^vrote, he was 
awaiting the royal commands. Apparently the 
loyalty of Alexander of Lorn to the English 
interest was still under suspicion. Angus Og, in 
his statement to the King, avoids committing 
himself to any opinion, either favourable or adverse, 
as to the fidelity of the Lord of Lorn. He humbly 
requests the King, if he believes in Lorn's loyalty, 
to order him to assist himself and Bisset in the 
reduction of the country ; but, failing such belief, 

^ Let tor from Engus dc Yle to King Edward respecting liis ]irocce(lings 
in tin; l.sles of Scotland. Hot. Scot. I., 40-41. 


to forward written instructions that they may, 
with Divine help, be able to overcome Lorn and 
all other enemies of the King tlironghout the 
Western Isles, In the same letter the sons of 
Roderick Mac Allan, who seem to have been at 
the time in the custody of Angus Og, and whose 
loyalty is guaranteed, are recommended to the 
royal favour ; and it is requested that they be 
allowed to enter into a pledge and compact of 
fidelity to King Edward as to their future sub- 
jection to his sway. 

After this j^eriod, until the memorable events of 
1306, history does not seem to record with any 
degree of definiteness the conduct of Angus towards 
either of the parties that strove for the mastery in 
Scotland. There is not much reason, however, to 
doubt that he continued consistently to support the 
authority of Edward I. But in 1306 there was a 
marked chang-e. Bruce's coronation at Scone on 
March 27 of that year was soon followed by the 
disastrous defeat at Methven, and shortly thereafter 
by an unsuccessful encounter with John MacDugall 
of Lorn at Dairy, near the end of Strathfillan. 
Notwithstanding the magnificent prowess and 
courage of the King, his followers were obliged 
to retire in presence of superior numbers. Under 
the guidance of the Earl of Lennox, whom Bruce, 
in the course of his subsequent wanderings, met 
on the shores of Lochlomond ; and assisted by Sir 
Neil Campbell, whom he had sent on in advance, 
the King reached the district of Kintyre, the 
country of Angus Og. And here we must pause 
for a moment to enquire as to the causes of this 
apparently sudden change of front on the part of 


the Lord of Kintyre/ and his truly Highland and 
hosijitable welcome to the royal fugitive. As to 
the warmth and friendliness of his reception, 
Barbour, the poetic biographer of Bruce, does not 
leave us in doubt :— 

And Angus of He that tynie was Syr 

And lord and ledar of Kyntyr 

The King rycht weill resawyt he 

And undertook his man to be 

And he and his on mony wyes 

He abandowynt to his service 

And for mair sekyrness gaifF him syne 

His Castle of Douaverdyne. 

In estimating the causes of this transference of 
allegiance from Edward I. to Bruce, we may regard 


it as possible, though far from probable, that self 
interest may have had some weight. We know 
that the relations of Angus with the MacDugalls 
of Lorn were not of the friendliest, and that an old 
feud as to the possession of Miill had not yet been 
set at rest. Had Bruce's star been in the ascendant 
in 1306, we might understand that considerations of 

^ Though Angus' hrotlier, Aloxander, was at this time head of the Clan, 
Angus, by disposition of his father, was Lord of Kintyre. 


self interest might have weight in determining 
Angus' action. But his friendhness to Bruce was 
first shewn at a time when his fortunes were most 
depressed and his prospects of success least hopeful ; 
and to all appearance there was nothing to gain, but 
everything to lose, by espousing the cause of the 
newly-crowned King of Scots, The motives by 
which Angus Og was actuated at this critical 
moment in the fortunes of Scotland are not such 
as have been suggested, but are to be found in 
less interested and more noble grounds. Angus 
Mor, as we have seen, was, in his latter years, a 
steady supporter of the claims of the elder Bruce, 
claims which appear to have been abandoned at the 
fall of Balliol in 1296, when Edward sought to reduce 
Scotland to the position of an English province. 
During the ten years that had elapsed since Balliol's 
deposition, the claims of the family of Bruce were in 
abeyance. But now, in 1306, these are once more 
advanced with most chivalrous daring by the young 
Earl of Carrick, and Angus Og, adopting the 
friendly attitude of his father, becomes associated 
with the stirring events of the war of Scottish 

Saddell, in whose castle the Lord of Kintyre 
first received Bruce, had many associations with the 
family of the Isles, not the least of these being that 
the dust of the " mighty Somerled " reposed within 
the sacred precincts of its monastery. The Castle 
of Saddell, at the head of Saddell Bay, is a large, 
square battlemented tower still in a state of perfect 
preservation. It measures 17 yards by 10, and 

1 That Augus Og and Bruce had been frieiKls in bygone times seems 
implied in what Buchanan says, Liber VIII. 30:— "Et cum ne sic quidem sibi 
tutus a civiura perfidia et hopiium erudelitate videretur in ^budas ad veterem 
quondam annicam tran«niisit. " 


is about 50 feet in height. The walls are of great 
thickness, without buttresses, and a spiral staircase 
leads through three sets of rooms up to the 
embattled parapet, whence a commanding view 
can be obtained of the western sea, as well as 
the shores of Kintyre and the picturesque isle of 
Arran. The inevitable dungeon in all its mediaeval 
gloom is still in evidence as a testimony to the power 
and sway of these Western Island Lords. As 
Barbour informs us, Angus Og took his royal guest 
for greater security to the Castle of Dunaverty, 
another Kintyre stronghold, and residence of the 
Lords of tbe Isles. Situated in the parish of South- 
end, on Dunaverty Bay, five miles east by north 
of the Mull of Kintyre, it stood on the summit 
of a peninsula of pyramidal shape, 95 feet high, 
with a cliff descending perpendicular to the sea. 
Defended on the land side by a double rampart 
and ditch, it was, both as to site and construction, 
a fortress of remarkable strength, and commanded 
the approach to that part of Scotland where the 
sea between it and Ireland is narrowest. It was 
in after times the scene of some remarkable 
historical events. But there is now hardly a 
trace of the once almost impregnable walls ; only 
on the everlasting rocks upon which it erstwhile 
stood do the Atlantic surges still dash and foam as 
in the days of Angus Og. Even here Bruce did 
not tarry long. He knew that his asylum in 
Kintyre could not be long concealed, and in the 
event of its becoming known prematurely, miglit 
expose his friendly host to the ireful vengeance 
of the English King. Angus now arranged to 
have Bruce quietly and secretly conveyed to 


Rachrin,^ a small island on the Irisli coast inhabited 
and owned by members of the Clan Donald. Here 
the King, befriended by Angus Og, found a safe 
retreat during the following winter. This was the 
darkest time of Bruce's fortunes, and when the 
clouds rolled by and prosperity smiled upon the 
cause, Angus Og shared in the triumphs and 
rewards which accompanied the glorious day of 
revived Scottish freedom. 

As the spring of 1307 drew nigh, the hopes of 
Bruce began to rise. The romantic interest that 
belonged to his career powerfully appealed to the 
female mind, and Christina of the Isles, the daughter 
and heiress of Allan MacPv-uari of Garmoran, was 
among the first to render important aid,^ Keceiving 
favourable news from the mainland, the King now 
began to meditate a descent upon Scotland, and 
having despatched messengers from his little 
garrison, he prejoared to take his departure. In 
the beginning of 1307, Angus Og placed a chosen 
band of Highlanders under the command of Donald, 
son of Alastair Mor, and these having crossed to 
Arran, were joined by the King, who meanwhile 
had taken the decisive step of quitting Kachrin 
Isle.^ From that day Angus Og of Isla, and with 
him the MacBuaris of Garmoran, were closely 
associated with Bruce in the task of vindicating 
the independence of Scotland. In his descent 
upon Carrick, where he " wan," if not his father's 
hall, at anyrate his father's territory, the Islesmen 

1 " Ou the south-west frae the promontory of Kiutyre, upon the coast 
of Ireland, be four myle to land, layes an iyle callit Eachlaine, pertaining to 
Ireland, and possessit tliir money zeires by Clan Donald of Kintyre, four 
myles longe end twa myle braid, guid laud, inhabit and mauurit."--Muuro, 

^ Fordun. 

^ Claurauaia History, 1M9. 


bore an honourable part. The only cloud that 
darkened the political outlook in 1307 was the 
defeat and capture of the King's brothers, Thomas 
and Alexander, in Galloway by Koland MacDowall, 
lord of that region. It is recorded that Angus 
Og took part in that engagement, but escaped the 
disaster that overtook his friends,^ Next year, 
as has already been narrated, this reverse was 
amply avenged. Not only so, but in 1308 the 
King wreaked signal vengeance upon the Mac- 
Dougalls of Lorn, the most implacable and deter- 
mined of his foes. Marching towards Argyllshire, 
he totally defeated the Lords of Lorn, both father 
and son, took the Castle of Dunstaffnage, and laid 
the country waste. Alexander of Lorn was taken 
prisoner, and permitted to depart with a safe- 
conduct to England, where he is said to have 
died soon after in poverty.^ 

On Angus Og becoming the head of the Clan 
Donald, after the defeat and discomfiture of his 
brother Alexander, already referred to, he was 
able to cast the whole influence of his tribe upon 
the patriotic side of the struggle. And so, when 
at last the King's toils and perils were crowned 
with victory on the field of Bannockburn, Angus 
Og and his Islesmen, variously estimated at from 
5000 to 10,000 men, were an indispensable factor 
in determining the fortunes of the day. The 
incidents of that ever memorable field are well- 
known to readers of Scottish history, and need 
not here be detailed, save so far as they relate 
to Macdonald of the Isles and his followers. 
These formed a corps of the rear or reserve 

^ Clauranuld History, 1819. - Buchamm, Liber VIII., 34. 


division, and was under the King's own immediate 
command : — 

" Sir Angus of the Isles and Bute alswae 
And of the plain lands he had mae 
Of armed men, a noble rout, 
In battle stalward was and stout. 
He said the rear guard he wad maw 
And even before him should gae 
The vanguard, and on either hand 
The other battle should be gaugand, 
Behind ane side a little space ; 
And the King that behind him was 
Should see Avhere there was maist maister 
And there relieve them with his banner. "^ 

It was not until the critical moment arrived that 
the men of the Isles were summoned to the fray. 
The impetuous Celtic phalanx, like the stag hound 
held by the leash, burned to rush upon the foe; 
but their native ardour must needs be restrained 
until the King's experienced eye saw that their 
action should prove of most effect. Despite the 
enormous disparity of numbers, the chivalry of 
England was beginning to fall into most perilous 
confusion before Bruce's skilful dispositions and 
the stubborn courage of his army. It was then 
the King resolved to bring up his reserves. He 
directed Angus of Isla to march the Islesmen to 
the assistance of Edward Bruce, who was engaged 
with the enemy on the right, and addressed him 
in the memorable words which to this day illustrate 
the arms of the Clanranald Chiefs: — " My hope is 
constant in thee." The stirring lines of Scott in 
"The Lord of the Isles" worthily interpret the 
spirit of that great and epoch-making scene : — 

^ Barbour's Bruce. 


" One eft'ort more and Scotland's free ! 
Lord of the Isles, my trust in thee 

Is firm as Ailsa rock ; 
Rush on with Highland sword and targe, 
I with my Carrick spearmen charge ; 

Now forward to the shock !" 

Angus Og and his men exhibited the trpxlitional 
valour of their race on that eventful day. Like 
the headlong rush of their native torrents as they 
dash and foam over rock and precipice, with the 
shrill note of the martial pipe rousing them to 
the onset, and with the wild ringing slogan of 
the hills echoing to the sky, the brave Islesmen 
swept on to meet the southern foe : — 

" At once the spears were forward thrown, 
Against the sun the broadswords shone ; 
The pibroch lent its maddening tone, 
And loud King Robert's voice was known— - 
Carrick, press on ! they fail, they fail ! 
Press on, brave soiis of Innisgail, 
The foe is fainting fast !" 

The attack of the Highlanders and the men of 
Carrick at that critical moment settled the fortunes 
of the day, and the victory lay A^ ith the " fourth 
battle." The great army of 100,000 fled before 
the prudent valour of the Bruce and the deter- 
mined bravery of the Scots, and Bannockburn was 

As a reward for the undoubted services rendered 
by MacDonald of the Isles and his Clan at Bannock- 
burn, they always thereafter had allotted to them, at 
the express desire of the King, the honourable dis- 
tinction of a place in the right wing of the royal 
army. Bruce, lioM'ever, did not confine his patronage 
to sentimental favours of this kind. Out of gratitude 
for the yoeman service rendered by the Island chief 


ill the momentous struggle, he bestowed upon Angus 
extensive possessions in addition to those which he 
already enjoyed. Besides Isla and Kintyre, the 
islands of Mull, Jura, Coll and Tiree, and the 
districts of Glencoe and Morvern, fell to his lot. 
Lorn was bestowed upon Roderick, son of Allan 
Macruari, who, not being considered feudally legiti- 
mate, received from his sister Christina, his father's 
legal heiress, a large share in her inheritance in 
Garmoran and the North Isles. ^ Lochaber, which 
had for a long time been in the possession of the 
Comyns — the determined foes of Bruce — was 
forfeited, and divided between Angus of Isla and 
Roderick of Garmoran ; but the latter having, 
about 1325, entered into a ti^easonable league 
against the Crown — probably the Soulis conspiracy — 
was afterwards deprived of that territory, and it 
was bestowed upon Angus Og. Bruce was no doubt 
well aware of the impolicy and danger to the author- 
ity of the Crown involved in the bestowal of such wide 
possessions upon a subject, for although the loyalty 
of Angus Og himself was undoubted, his successors 
might not prove so friendly to the Scottish State. 
Indeed, one of the weighty counsels which King 
Robert left behind him for the guidance of the 
kingdom in future times, w^as not to let the lord- 
ship of the Hebridean Isles be in the hands of any 
one man.^ Still the services of the Lord of the 
Isles were too great to be overlooked, and the only 
condition made to neutralise the power which thus 
accrued to him was the erection of Tarbert Castle, 
in Kintyre, to be occupied as a royal stronghold. 

'■ Skene's Highlandei'S of Scotland, vol. II., p, 50. 

2 Ne quenquam unum Hebridarum insularum douiiuuni faceieut. 
Buiihauan, Lib. VIII., 57. 


Angus Og married a daughter of Guy or Con- 
buidh O'Cathan or O'Kane, one of the greatest 
barons of Ulster, Lord of Limvady, and Master of 
the whole County of Derry.^ The O'Cathans were 
origmally a branch of the Cm el Eoghain, descended 
from Neil of the nine hostao^es, Kinsj of Ireland. 
The Lord of the Isles obtained a unique dowry 
with his bride, whose name, according to the most 
generally accepted traditions, was Margaret," but 
accordinfff to another, less known but more correct 
account, was said to be Ann, Aine, or Agnes. ^ The 
lady's portion took the form of 140 men out of 
every surname in O'Cathan's territory, and the 
descendants of those who left representatives are 
known to this day in the Highlands as " tochradh 
nighean a' Chathanaich" — "The dowry of O'Cathan's 
daughter." The importation of so many stalwart 
Irishmen shows that the Highlands were somewhat 
sparsely peopled, and that there were no appre- 
hensions of a congested population in the days of 
Angus Og. It was still very much the time when 
might was right — when there prevailed : — 

" The good old way, the simple plan, 
That he should take who has the j)0\ver, 
And he should keep who can," 

and when property could only be held by the strong 
hand of him who could muster the biggest force of 
armed retainers. In these circumstances, the arrival 
of this "tail" of youths from the Emerald Isle, to 
help the security of the lady's new domains, was 
by no means an unwelcome occurrence. The names 
of some of these immigrants have come down by 

' Hugh Macdonaia's MS. ; 1700 MS. 

* Hugh Maodoiiald'.s M.S. 

^ ] rOU MS. Hill's Macdonalds of Aulrim, p. 17. KoU Scot., vol. L, p. 534- 



tradition. Two families, the Miinroes, so called 
because they came from the innermost Roe water 
in the County of Deny, their name being originally 
O'Millans, and the Koses of Kilravock/ rose to 
territorial distinction in the North Highlands. 
The other names presei-ved by Hugh Macdonald 
are the Fearns, Dingwalls, Beatons, Macphersons, 
Bulikes of CVxithness, while the MS. of 1700 


mentions, in addition to the foregoing, Dunbar, 
Maclinen, and the MacGilleglasses. 

Angus Og's loyalty to Bruce never faltered. It 
stands in marked contrast to the policy of the 
succeeding Lords of the Isles. Loyalty to Scottish 
nationality was, however, a plant of slow growth, 
even amonof the m-eat baronial families of the South. 

^ The historian of the Kilravock family iloes not dispute, but, on the con- 
trary, admits that the family came directly from Ireland, though he maintains 
that England was the nursery of the race, whence they maj' have emigrated to 
Ireland. Vide Kilravock Charters. 


These were, in blood and social ideas, as much Anglo- 
Norman as Scottish, and swayed from one side to 
the other in the time of conflict just as self-interest 
suggested. The case of the Lords of the Isles was 
similar, and, if Angus Og was a notable exception to 
his line, it was because in following the impulses of 
friendship for the great and chivalrous deliverer of 
Scotland, he departed from what was in reality the 
traditional policy of the Kings of Innse-Gall. 
Angus Og died shortly after his illustrious 
jDatron (whose death occurred in 1329) in his 
Castle of Finlaggan in Is la, and was buried in 
the tomb of his ancestors in lona. On his toml:)- 
stone are his arms — a ship with hoisted sails, a 
standard, four lions, and a tree — and the following 
inscription : — " Hie jacet corpus Angusii filii Domhii 
Anofusii MacDomhnill de Ila." 


Legend . 

SR Engus De Yle Film Domnaloi. 



Hie jacet corpus Angusii fiUi Domini 
Ang^sli Mac Domhnill de Ila. 




John of Isla. — His relation to Scottish Parties. — Treaty with 
Balliol. — Forfeiture. — Forfeiture of Eeginald Macruari. — Par- 
don and Reinstatement. — Assassination of Reginald Mac- 
ruari. — John and the Lands of Garmoran, itc. — John at the 
Battle of Poictiers. — His Captivity. — Ransom. — Connection 
with the National Party. — Second Marriage. — Constable of 
Edinburgh Castle. - High Steward of Scotland. — Rebellion. — 
Treaty of Inverness. — Lordship of the Lsles. — -John's 
Eminence. — Death. — Controversial Questions. — The Two 

John of Isla's succession to the extensive territories 
left by his father was ahuost contemporaneous 
with the accession of David II., then a mere child, 
to the Scottish throne. The woes that tend to 
accompany a long minority, and in which Scottish 
history largely abounds, were for a few years 
mitigated by the firm and sagacious regency of 
Randolph, Earl of Moray ; but when his strong hand 
w^as removed from the helm of State, Scotland was 
again plunged into anarchy and confusion. Disaster 
fell upon the Scottish arms at Dupplin ; the power 
of the executive was shattered ; English influence 
began to make itself felt once more, and Edward 
Balliol was crowned at Scone in 1332, and soon after- 
wards did homao;e as the vassal of Edward HI. The 
cause of Scottish independence, though thus betrayed, 
was not by any means crushed ; the spirits of 
Wallace and Bruce still ruled tlie j^eople " from their 
urrjs." For nine years the patriotic barons, backed 


by the national sentiment animating the great mass 
of the peasantry and middle class, were successful in 
maintaining the independence and integrity of the 
realm, in the face of domestic disloyalty fomented 
by the ambitious English monarch. 

The early years of John of Isla's occupancy of the 
Island throne were passed during this transition 
from the comparatively settled order of Bruce's reign 
to the confusions of that which followed, and the 
history of the lordship of the Isles during, as well as 
subsequent to, that period derives its colouring from 
the varying vicissitudes of general Scottish history. 
John was undoubtedly one of the most distinguished 
of his distinguished line. The circumstances of his 
time were not such as to shed the halo of martial 
glory on his name. He did not, like his father or 
son, engage in a great or epoch-making battle.^ He 
did not share in the glory of a great field like 
Bannockburn, nor did he play the chief part in an 
heroic struggle like Harlaw. But peace has its 
victories no less than w^ar, and John's long life 
illustrated the exercise of far-sighted and, on the 
whole, successful diplomacy. He was animated all 
along by the dominant idea of his family, the 
maintenance of the honour of his house, and of the 
integrity of his ancestral domains. Loyalty to the 
Scottish crown was a question of expediency rather 
than of principle with the descendant of a line of 
chiefs who regarded themselves as hereditary kings 
of the Scottish Gael, as well as lords of Innse-Gall. 
Viewed in this light, John's conduct amid the stormy 
drama of Scottish politics during the fourteenth 
century is intelligible enough. Seeking to exercise 
independent sway within the Celtic sphere, he 

^ Unleas we except Poictiers, of which hereafter, 

THE (400D JOH^■ OF ISLA. 105 

clearly saw that English influence in Scotland, with 
its natural correlative a weak Scottish executive, 
would serve his purpose best. This undoubtedly 
was his chief motive in espousing the cause of Baliol. 
But his attitude of hostility to the patriotic party 
was still further strengthened by a difference with 
the Regent regarding certain of the lands which he 
had inherited from his father. Randolph's successor 
refused to confirm him in these possessions, with the 
result that when Balliol assumed the crown the Lord 
of the Isles became associated with his party as that 
which would the more likely establish him in his 
just and lawful rights. Hence it came to pass that 
on the 12th September, 1335, John entered into a 
treaty of alliance with Edward Balliol, in which he 
was put into possession of the lands inherited from 
his father, and others. This treaty, which was con- 
cluded at Perth, was on the 6th October of the 
following year ratified by Edward III. at Auckland, 
Balliol acknowledging the English King as his 
superior and Lord Paramount. Edward's con- 
firmation of the treaty to which Balliol and John 
of Isla Avere parties contains the tenour of the 
compact, and as it throws an interesting light 
upon our subject, the substance of it may be quoted 
here : — 

" The King to whom, itc. We have examined certain letters of 
indenture drawn up between the magnificent prince Lord Edward 
King of Scotland, our illustrious and most dear cousin, and John 
of the Isles, in the following terms : — In this indenture, made at 
the town of Perth on Tuesday, 12th December, 1335, between the 
most excellent prince Lord Edward, by the grace of God the 
illustrious King of Scots, on the one part, and John of the Isles on 
the other part, it is certified that the said Lord the King has 
granted, in so far as in him lay, to the foresaid John for good 


and praiseworthy service rendered to himself, and in future to be 
rendered by bim and his heirs, 

The Island of Ysle (Isla) 

The land of Kentyre (Kintyre) 

The land of Knappedoll (Knapdale) 

The Island of Githc (Gigha) 

Half the Island of Dure (Jura) 

The Island of Golwonche (Colonsay) 

The Island of Mulle 

The Island of Sky 

The Island of Lewethy (Lewis) 

The land of Kenalbadon and Ardinton (Morvern and 
to be held I)}- the same John and his heirs and assignees. The 
same Lord the King has also granted to the same John the ward- 
ship of Lochaber until the attainment to man's estate of the son 
and heir of Lord David of Strathbolgy the last Earl of Athol. 
And for these foresaid concessions the foresaid John of the Isles 
binds himself and his lieirs to be leal aud faithful men to the said 
Lord the King and liis heirs for ever, and he binds himself and his 
heirs to pursue all his foes and rebels whatsoever, on what days, 
in what places and ways he may be able to do so. And in security 
for the faithful performance of alltliese promises the oath shall be 
given by the said John on the holy eucharist, the cup of the altar, 
and the missal. Likewise tlie said John wishes and grants that if 
the foresaid Lord the King should desire to have from him a 
hostage or hostages for greater secnrity, that a cousin or cousins 
of his own under age, very nearly related to him, may be 
delivered over to the said Lord the King when a siiitablc time 
has come, seeing that the said John has as yet neither son nor 
heir lawfully begotten of his own body. Besides, the foresaid 
Lord the King wishes and grants that at whatever time he may 
have an heir of his own body legitimately begotten the office of 
godfather to his heir may be granted to the foresaid John. 

" But we accept, ratify, approve, and confirm the whole and 
each of the contents of the foresaid letters for ourselves and our 
heirs so far as in us lies, as the foresaid letters more fully testify."^ 

It is evident that John liimself was present, and 
paid his respects to King Edward when these 
important negotiations were taking place. The 

^ Roluli Scolia3, vol. I., p. 463. 


Scottish records of the time indicate that on the 
very day on which John's League with Balhol was 
confirmed by the Enghsh monarch he received a safe 
conduct from that potentate. Intimation "was made 
to all sheriffs, bailies, and other faithful subjects 
that John and his retinue, servants, and equipage, 
whether staying with the King, on their way to see 
him, or on their return home, were under his special 
protection and care.^ In all this we have evidence 
of the value placed by Balliol and. his suzerain 
upon the power and resources of the Island Lord, 
and his adhesion to the anti-Scottish party. Tliis 
alliance with Edward III. continued for several 
years, gathering rather tlian losing strength, and in 
the records of 1337 we find frequent traces of 
friendly intercourse between the English monarch 
and the Lord of the Isles. On 3rd December of 
that year John received a safe conduct couched in 
still more forcible language than that of 1335, and 
the most extreme j)ains and penalties are threatened 
against such as would cause injury or molestation to 
himself or his followers when coming, staying, or 
departing from the royal presence. This is followed 
on the day immediately succeeding by a commission 
to the Earl of Salisbury to enter into a league with 
the Lord of the Isles. On the same day a letter is 
sent by Edward to John by the hands of this same 
plenipotentiary, abounding in the friendliest, the 
most honeyed phrases — ejnstola hlandiloqua it is 
styled. He calls him his dearest friend, and offers 
him the best safeguards in his power, whether he 
comes with 60 or 80 or 100 attendants with the view^ 
of drawing closer the bonds of amity and concord 
between them.- The relations between the English 

1 Rotuli ScoticC, vol. I., p. 464. - Ibideiu, p. olG. 


King and John, of which we have evidence in these 
transactions, seem to have lasted until a fresh crisis 
arose in the position of Scottish parties. Edward, 
recognising the power and capacity of the Island 
lord, seems to have done all he could to stimulate 
his discontent, secure his friendship, and establish 
his connection with the party of Balliol. 

After a few years' struggle, the patriotic party 
was successful in vindicating the independence of 
Scotland, and the Steward, the nephew of David 
Bruce, having been appointed Regent, and finding 
his uncle's cause in the ascendant, arranged for his 
return from France to assume his father's sceptre in 
1341. Owing to the attitude of John of Isla during 
the troublous times of David Bruce's minorit}^ it 
miglit naturally be expected that the vengeance of 
the King would, on the overthrow of his enemies 
and his accession to the tlirone, be directed against 
him. As a matter of fact, in or about 1343, John 
was nominally forfeited in the lands of Gigha, 
Isla, Jura, and Colonsay, all of which were granted 
by the King to Angus Macian of Ardnamurchan,^ a 
kinsman of his own, and the head of a house that 
was yet to play a not unimportant part in the 
history of the Highlands. Beginald Macruari 
joined with John of Isla in offering a stout and 
effective resistance to the royal decree. His posses- 
sions seem also to have been involved in the 
confiscations of the time, although the Macruari 
tenure at that particular period is not altogether 
clear. The Island Chiefs were not, however, 
strong believers in the efficacy of parchments, and 
seem to have felt none the worse of their irregular 
relations to the crown. It was not long ere the 

' Charter in Haddington's Collection. 


exigencies of the Scottish State wrought in favour 
of the Island interests. David Bruce, taking 
advantage of the absence of Edward III. in France, 
resolved to invade England in 1346. Wishing to 
bring the whole military force of his kingdom into 
action, and with the view of conciliating all whose 
hostility might be feared, he pardoned both John 
of Isla and his kinsman, Reginald Macruari. The 
whirligig of time had brought about its revenges, 
and David Bruce repeated the work of Balliol. In 
1343 — before the invasion of England, and the 
very year of his forfeiture — he confirmed John 
in the lands of Durdoman (Duror), Glenchomyr 
(Glenco), Morimare (Morvern), Geday (Gigha), 
Ardinton (Ardnamurchan), Golwonche (Colonsay), 
Mulle, Kernoburgh, and Iselborgh Castles, with 
the lands pertaining to them ; Tirayd (Tiree), Yle 
(Isla), Dure (Jura), Scarba, Lewis, and Lochaber.^ 
It will be seen from this that Kintyre, Knapdale 
(South), and Skye, which formed part of Balliol's 
grant in 1335, are excepted, these lands having 
reverted to their former owners. To Ranald Mac- 
ruari ^ there were granted the Isles of Uist, Barra, 
Eigg, and Rum, and the lordship of Garmoran, 
which included the districts of Moydart, Arisaig, 
Morar, and Knoydart — all of which formed the 
ancient patrimony of the Macruari family.^ 

On the eve of David Bruce's invasion of England, 
there occurred a tragedy which resulted in a con- 
siderable enlargement of the power and possessions 
of the House of Isla. Reginald Macruari met 
with a violent death. The Scottish barons hav- 

^ Eobertaon's Index, p. 48-1. 

' This Ranald is referred to as " Ranald the White " in the genealogy of 
the 1450 MS. 

^ RoV)ert8ou'ii Index, p. 48-3. 


ing been convoked to meet at Perth, Reginald, 
obeying the summons, and accompanied by a 
considerable body of men, took up his quarters 
in the monastery of Elcho, a few miles from the 
ancient capital. Reginald held the lands of Kintail 
from the Earl of Ross, the instrument being thus 
defined : — " Carta Regnaldi filii Roderici de terris 
de Kintale in Ergadia Boreali data per Dominum 
Ross." ^ The Charter of confirmation for the same 
lands is thus described : — " Carta ejusdem Regis 
confirmans cartam consessam per Wilhelmum 
Comitem de Ross filium et heredem quondam 
Hugonis Comitis de Ross Reginalde filio Roderici 
de Insulis decem davatorum terre de Kennetale 
in Ergadia Boaeali data apud castrum dicti Comitis 
de Urcharde, 4th Julii an Dom 1342, testibus 
(names of witnesses). Carta Regis est fine data," ^ 
Mr William Mackay, in his admirable History of 
Urquhart and Glenmoriston, makes reference to the 
circumstances in which this charter was bestowed. 
At that time Glen-Urquhart Castle was in the 
keeping of Sir Robert Lauder of Quarrelwood, on 
behalf of the Scottish Crown. Mr Mackay says : — 

" Within tlic old -wally of his Castle, Sir Robert Lauder eiitei*- 
tained right royally. Among the guests who were met together 
there on 4th July, 1342, -were William, Earl of Ross; Reginald, 
son of Roderick of the Isles ; the Bishop of Moray, the Bishop 
Ross, Sir James de Kerdale, Sir William de Mowbray, Sir Thomas 
de Lichtoun, Canon of Moray ; John de Barclay, Adam de 
Urqiihart, John Yong de Dingwall, ' and many others, clergymen 

' The Charter of Reginald, &011 of ilwlerick, for the lands of Kintail, in 
Noi-th Argyll, given by the Earl of Ross. Robertson's Index, p. 48-2. 

^ The Cliarter of the same King, confirming the Charter granted by 
William, Earl of Ross, son and heir of the late Hugh, Earl of Ross, to 
Reginald, son of Roderick of the Isles, for the ten davochlands of Kintail, 
in North Argyll, given at the said Earl's Castle of Urquhart on the 4th of 
July, 1342 A.u. The King's Cliarter is given at the end. 


and laymen' — a goodly company truly. These all witnessed a 
charter by the Earl to Reginald of the lands of Kintail, as a 
reward for his services."^ 

A bitter feud as to the tenure of these lands seems 
to have arisen between the superior and vassal, and 
the opportunity of wreaking vengeance upon his foe 
seemed to the Earl too favourable to be lost. In 
the middle of the night he broke into the monas- 
tery, surprised the occupants, treacherously and 
sacrilegiously slew Keginald and seven of his men 
within the holy building, and immediately there- 
after betook himself to his northern fastnesses. It 
was considered a bad omen by many at the time 
that King David's campaign should have been 
immediately preceded by so fell a deed.^ 

The foregoing incident materially affected the 
fortunes of John of Isla. In 1337, or shortly there- 
after, he had married his third cousin, Euphemia 
Macruari, sister of the slaughtered chief In terms 
of the Hoyal gift to her brother, Reginald, she 
succeeded to the estates, and brought them over to 
her husband in 1344. Although John's right 
emerged through his marriage, he had also, as a 
male heir not remotely akin, a feasible right to the 
inheritance. In this way he had a double claim to 
Garmoran and the Northern Isles. The Scottish 
Government, however, did not regard the matter 
in this light. They considered John already too 
powerful a subject for the safety of the realm, and 
rightly feared that the vast territories to which he 
now laid claim threatened a revival of the ancient 
kingdom of the Isles. Consequently, they refused 
to acknowledge John as the rightful heir of the 
Macruaris, or to give him legal investiture in 

1 p. 3.-. 

- For Wj'utouu on Ranald Macruari'.s death, see Appendix. 


their possessions. Whatever ostensible reason tlie 
Government may have advanced for their action — 
and these we shall afterwards consider- — the motives 
whicli really animated them were concern for the 
safety of the State. It is not surprising that the 
proud Chief of the Clan Donald was indignant at 
the attitude of the Government, and felt disposed 
again to espouse the fortunes of the Balliol party. 
In 1346, the year of Reginald Macruari's assassina- 
tion, the fortunes of that faction seemed once more 
in the ascendant. King David Bruce's invasion of 
England opened with disaster. At the battle of 
Neville's Cross the Scottish army was defeated with 
great slaughter, and the King taken a prisoner to 
England. Yet although it might well seem that a 
fatal blow had been struck at Scotland's indepen- 
dence, and Balliol's position been re-es1jablished by 
England's success, neither of these results ensued. 
Balliol obtained not even the semblance of kingly 
authority ; and the Scottish nobility were successful 
in placing the Steward, the next heir to the throne, 
in the regency of the kingdom. In 1351, Edward 
III., whose attention was largely taken up with his 
French wars, concluded a truce with Scotland, which 
he renewed from time to time, as he entertained 
prospects of replenishing tiie coffers of the State by 
a large ransom for the royal captive. 

In the circumstances to which we have just 
referred, the friction which was caused between 
John of Isla and the Government in connection 
with the estates of Garmoran does not seem to 
have led the Island Chief into aggressive hostility. 
From all that we can learn, during the eleven years 
of David's captivity in England, John was left in 
undisturbed possession, not only of the lands con- 


firmed to him hj the royal authority, but also of 
tiie Macruari territories, his right to which was still 
unacknowleclo-ed. Certain of the lands which were 
granted by David Bruce to John in 1343, namely, 
the lands of Duror, Jura, and Mull, and the for- 
tresses of Kerneburgh and Isel burgh, of which 
John had received the custody, had been held by 
John of Lome as the vassal of John of Isla. The 
privilege of holding these fortressees had been 
accompanied by certain conditions. One of these 
was that until John of Lome delivered the Castle 
of Kerneburgh to John of Isla he should give 
him three hostages, namely, a lawful son of Lachlan 
MacAlexander, a lawful son of Ywar MacLulli^ and a 
lawful son of John MacMolmari, or of another good 
man of his clan ; and another was that John of 
Lome should never give the keeping of the castle of 
Kerneburgh to a,ny of the Clan Fynwyne (Mac- 
kinnon), who, at that time, seem to have had a 
settlement in Mull. These, with the exception of 
the three unciates of Tereyd (Tiree), next to Coll, 
were all resigned to John of Isla, it being stipulated 
that the Steward of the three unciates should not 
make a domestic establishment (domesticatum) or 
a dwelling (habitaculum) on those lands without 
leave obtained from the superior. The Island of 
Coll was retained by John of Lome, and, in the 
deed recording the transaction, was confirmed to 
himself and his heirs for ever. These negotiations 
took place in 1354, and in the record of the pro- 
ceedings we find John of Isla described by the title 
" Lord of the Isles." 

It may be true, as Gregory says, that there is no 
previous record of this particular chief of the Clan 
Cbolla being called Dominus Insularum in the 


annals of that age. It is, however, a most 
unwarrantable inference to draw from that fact, as 
the same historian does, that the title " Lord of the 
Isles" was a new one in the history of the family. 
This particular question we propose to touch upon 
more fully in a subsequent chapter. 

Shortly after this time an incident occurred in 
John's career which shows that English influence 
had lost its hold upon him, and that in his public 
conduct he had allowed himself to be drawn into 
the full tide of Scottish policy. In 1354-5, just as a 
treaty for the ransom of David Bruce was on the 
eve of being ratified, the Scots nobility were per- 
suaded by the potent argument of forty thousand 
moutons of French gold to break the truce with 
England.^ This was followed by a series of hostilities 
both in Scotland and France, in both which lands 
the able and ambitious Edward III. still sought to 
obtain supreme dominion. In 1356, the Black 
Prince having penetrated far into the interior of 
France, the French King assembled an army vastly 
superior in numbers, and determined to cat off his 
retreat. A number of Scottish chiefs and nobles 
accompanied him to the field, and, among others, 
John of Isla,^ with a powerful body of Highlanders. 
With all his numerical advantages, the French King 
was unable to prevail against the valour of the 
English army. In the famous battle of Poictiers, 
fought on the 19th September, 1356, the Scots 
contingent sustained great losses, and the Lord of 
the Isles was taken prisoner. From that date to 
16th December of the following year, he was in 

1 Scott's History of Scotland, vol. I , p. 201. 

^ On the 31st of the jpreceding March, Edward III. sought to bring 
John of Isla over to his interest, and a commission for treating with him was 
executed ; but this commission was rendered nugatory by John's refusal to 
treat. Rymer's Foedera. 


captivity, the greater jjait of the time in England. 
Once more John obtains from the Engh'sh King a 
safe conduct for his return to his Island home, but 
it is notable that the terms of the document are less 
endearing than of old. Sheriffs and bailies and 
other faithful ones, however, are told that the Lord 
of the Isles, who was a prisoner of the Prince of 
Wales his dear son, was in the King's safe conduct 
going to Scotland, accompanied by four knights, 
with the view of providing the means necessary for 
his ransom/ 

Two years after this we find John of Isla taking 
a prominent part in promoting the treaty for the 
liberation and ransom of David II., and thus still 
further indicating his abandonment of the Eng- 
lish alliance and his assumption of a friendly 
attitude towards the Crown. It was stipulated 
in this treaty that, for the more sure payment 
of the ransom of 100,000 marks, twenty hostages 
were to be sent to England, and that three 
of the following seven were always to be of the 
said twenty, viz.: — the Steward of Scotland, the 
Earls of March, Marr, Ross, and Sutherland, the 
Lord Douglas and Thomas de Murray ; that in the 
meantime, during the whole period of the ten years 
over which the payments were spread, an inviolable 
truce should subsist, in which truce were to be 
included Monsieur Ediuanl de Balliol and Johan des 
Isles. ^ 

Soon after the return of David Bruce to the 
Scottish throne, a complete revolution took place 
in the mutual relations of political parties. The 
party adhering to the King was wont to be 
regarded as patriotic and national, that of Balliol 

1 Rotuli Scotifc, vol. I., p. SV?. - Uobertson's Index, 107-19. 


being favourable to English influence. But now 
David Bruce began to show symptoms that his 
long residence in England had enervated his 
patriotism. He betokened a willingness to admit 
English influence into the affairs of the realm, 
and even to promote the nomination of an 
English successor to the throne of Scotland. The 
consequence was that the Balliol faction became 
the party of the court, while the national party, 
with the Steward at its head, found themselves 
in the cool shades of opposition. Yet although 
the Lord of the Isles found himself, for the first 
time, in a position in which antagonism to the 
Government was consistent with adherence to the 
jDarty of Scottish independence ; and although his 
connection with this party was further cemented 
by his marriage with Lady Margaret, daughter of 
the Steward, yet we do not find that he assumed a 
strenuous attitude in opposition to the policy of the 
King. The date of this marriage, in the absence of 
definite information, it is difficult to state with 
exactness, but it must have taken place about, and 
certainly not much later than, David Bruce's return 
from captivity. 

We do not purpose at this stage to discuss the 
merits of this union, the circumstances of which the 
history of the time has left, to a large extent, in 
obscurity. The voice of tradition is unanimous as 
to the fact that, in order to carry out the marriage, 
the Lord of the Isles divorced or abandoned his first 
wife. Amy Macruari. In this he had the support 
and advice not only of the Steward, but — according 
to Hugh Macdonald, the Sleat historian — of his 
council, and, pre-eminently, Maclnnes of Ardgour. 
The same authority — who, by the way, describes 


Amy as "a ^ood and virtuous gentlewoman" — 
throws an interesting side-light upon the pride of 
the great Highland Chief, who would not perform 
the unwonted act of obeisance — uncovering: his head 
in the royal presence on the occasion of his marriage 
— but ingeniously evaded the courtesy by not wearing 
a head-dress at all, Maclnnes's untoward inter- 
vention in the domestic affairs of the family of Isla 
was neither forgotten nor forgiven by Amy or her 


sons. It is alleged that a commission was given to 
Donald, son of Lauchlan MacLean, to slay Maclnnes 
with his five sons, and this having been done, he 
obtained possession of Ardgour, which his posterity 
still enjoy. Amy is said to have lived for a number 
of years after her separation from John of Isla, and 
to have built Castle Tirrim in Moidart, and Borve 
Castle in Benbecula, as well as places of worship, of 
which notice shall be taken hereafter/ 

^ Hugh Macdouald's MS.. 


Although John's connection with the family of 
the Steward would naturally, as we have seen, 
lead him to espouse the policy of his party, yet 
his past conduct, both in war and diplomacy, 
in recent years, continued to secure for him the 
favour of the Crown. He enjoyed certain high 
ofBces of State, his tenure of which does not 
seem to have hitherto attracted the attention of the 
historian. Such was the confidence that seems to 
have been reposed in him, that, in or shortly before 
1360, he was appointed Constable of Edinburgh 
Castle, a responsible and ,exalted military position, 
which reflected much credit upon the character and 
ability of the Chief of the Clan Donald.^ This, how- 
ever, was not the only function which John, during 
these years of loyalty, discharged under the Scottish 
Crown. It is, indeed, a singular circumstance that, 
in 1364, we find him acting in the highest office 
which it was possible for a Scottish subject to occupy, 
viz., that of Senescall, or High Steward of the King's 
Household,^ an office which had for generations 
come down by hereditary descent as the possession 
of a family nearly akin to the throne. The history 
of the time leaves little doubt as to the reasons for 
which, at the period under consideration, John of 
Isla, rather than the hereditary holder of the 
position, is found discharging the functions of High 
Steward of Scotland. liobert, the High Steward, 
had, by various Acts of Settlement passed by the 
Estates of Scotland, been called to the Crown as 
next heir to his uncle David Bruce, in default of the 
latter leaving heirs of his body. Queen Joanna died 
childless in 1363, and early in the following year 

\llotuli Scacarii Eegum Scotorum, vol. IL, pp. 50-78. 
"^ Ibidem, pp. 129, 134, UO, 173. 


the King, having contracted a violent fancy for a 
beautiful young woman named Margaret Logie — of 
comparatively humble origin — insisted, contrary to 
the advice of his Court, on bestowing his hand upon 
her in marriage. This unequal alliance caused an 
open rupture between David and his kinsman the 
Steward, whose reversion of the Crown would 
certainly be disappointed if the fair Margaret should 
bear a son. Such was the discord that arose out 
of this episode and the angry feelings to which it 
gave rise, that the Steward and his son, the Wolf of 
Badenoch, were thrown into prison, where they 
seem to have been detained for several years. The 
royal resentment does not seem, however, to have 
extended to the Steward's son-in-law, John of Isla, 
for undoubtedly he exercised the functions of 
Senescall during a part, at least, of his father-in- 
law's imprisonment, a fact which seems to indicate 
that he must have been a special favourite with the 
King, and kept himself free from the contending 
factions of the time. 

Two years after John of Isla first comes before us 
as Steward of Scotland, he appears as a royal envoy 
to Flanders to transact some business for the King.^ 
Again the history of the age helps us to determine 
the nature of the negotiations in which the Lord of 
the Isles was engaged during his visit to Flanders. 
The payment of the King's ransom was one of the 
chief obstacles in the way of a lasting peace between 
the two kingdoms, and to secure the regular pay- 
ment of the first instalment the Scottish Parliament 
had made great sacrifices. It was ordained that the 
wool of the Kingdom, apparently its most productive 
export at that time, should be sold to the King at a 

^ Rotuli Scacarii Regum Scotorum, vol. II., p. 261. 


low rate, and it was afterwards disposed of under 
the King's instructions to merchants in Flanders, 
where textile industries seem at that early time to 
have flourished, and the surplus produced over prime 
cost was applied in discharge of the royal ransom. 
John of Isla, in virtue of his office as Senescall, had 
the management of the royal revenues, and his 
voyage to Flanders in 1366, accompanied by John 
Mercer, who was probably better versed than the 
Lord of the Isles in the price of wool, was no doubt 
undertaken with the view of negotiating with the 
Flanders merchants as to the value to be placed 
upon the precious commodity which was to yield a 
King's ransom. 

The burdensome exactions which were thus 
necessary for completing the ransom of the King 
were felt to be a heavy impost by a country natur- 
ally poor and lately impoverished l)y a series of 
desolating wars. In the Highlands especially the 
taxation was found to be oppressive, and John of 
Isla, so recently a high official under the Scottish 
Crown, is found, along with other northern barons, 
refusing to pay the national taxation or attend a 
meeting of the Estates of the realm. ^ 

Some years before this outbreak of disaffection, 
as already stated, the King had thrown the Steward 
into prison for his opposition to the royal policy, 
but now finding himself unable to cope with the 
forces of disorder, he gave him his freedom, in 
the belief that he would lend his influence 
successfully to the vindication of the authority 
of the Crown. The Steward undertook a task 
dictated alike by policy and patriotism. His 
son-in-law, John of Isla, was the most difficult to 
reduce to subjection. There was peace, however, 

1 Acts of Scottish Parliament., vol. XII., p. 503, June 12, 1368. 


between Scotland and England ; John of Isla had 
no foreign ally to whom to turn, and so David Bruce 
was able to bring all his resources to bear upon the 
Island potentate. At last, after years of open and 
successful defiance, the Steward prevailed upon the 
haughty and turbulent chief to meet the King at 
Inve^rness, when the following instrument of allegi- 
ance was finally drawn up in 1369 : — 

" To all who may see the present letters : — John de Yle, Lord 
of the Isles, wishes salvation in the Saviour of ail. Since my most 
serene prince and master, the revered lord David, by the Grace of 
God, illastrious King of Scots, has been stirred up against my 
person because of certain faults committed by me, for which 
reason, coming humbly to the presence of my said lord, at the 
Town of Inverness, on the 15th day of the month of November, in 
the year of grace 1369, in the presence of the prelates, and of 
very many of the nobles of his kingdom, I offered and submitted 
myself to the pleasure and favour of my said master, by sup- 
pliantly entreating for favour and for the remission of my late 
faults, and since my said lord, at the instance of his comicil, has 
graciously admitted me to his goodwill and favour, granting 
besides that I may remain in (all) my possessions whatsoever and 
not be removed, except according to the process and demand of 
law : Let it be clearly patent to you all, by the tenor of thesa 
presents, that I, John de Yle, foresaid, promise and covenant, in 
good faith, that I shall give and make reparation to all good men 
of this kingdom whatsover, for such injuries, losses, and troubles 
as have been wrought by me, my sons, or others whose names are 
more fully set forth in the royal letters of remission granted to 
me, and to whomsoever of the kingdom as are faithful I shall 
thus far make the satisfaction concluded for, and I shall justly 
note purchased lands and superiorities, and I shall govern them 
according to my ability ; I shall promptly cause my sons and my 
subjects, and others my adherents, to be in peaceable subjection, 
and that due justice shall be done to our lord the King, and to 
the laws and customs of his kingdom, and that they shall be 
obedient to, and shall appear before the justiciars, sheriffs, 
coroners, and other royal servants in each sheriflfdom, even better 
and more obediently than in the time of Robert of good memory, 
the predecessor of my lord the King, and as the inhabitants of 


the said lands and superiorities have been accustomed to do. 
They shall answer, both promptly and dutifully, to the royal 
servants what is imposed regarding contributions and other 
burdens and services due, and also for the time past, and in the 
event that within the said lands or superiorities any person or 
persons shall offend against the King, or one or more of his faith- 
ful servants, and if he or they shall despise to obey the law, or if 
he or they shall be unwilling to obey in the premises, and in any 
one of the premises, I shall immediately, entirely laying aside 
stratagem and deceit, pursue that person or those persons as 
enemies, and as rebels of the King and kingdom, with all my 
ability, until he or they shall be expelled from the limits of the 
lands and superiorities, or I shall make him or them obey the 
common law : And for performing, implementing, and faithfully 
observing these things, all and each, I personally have taken the 
oath in presence of the foresaid prelates and nobles, and besides I 
have given and surrendered the under-written hostages, viz., 
Donald, my son, begotten of the daughter of the Lord Seneschal 
of Scotland, Angus, son of my late son John, and one Donald, 
another and natui-al son of mine, whom, because at the time of 
the completion of this present deed I have not at present ready 
and prepared, I sliall cause them to go into, or to be given up at 
the Castle of Dumbarton, at the feast of our Lord's birth now next 
to come, if I shall be able otherwise on this side, or at the feast of 
the Purification of the Blessed Virgin (or Candlemas, 2d February) 
next following thereafter, under pain of the breach of the oath 
given, and under pain of the loss of all things which, with regard 
to the lord our King, I shall be liable to lose, in whatever manner. 
And for securing the entrance of these hostages as promised, I 
have found my Lord Seneschal of Scotland, Earl of Strathern, 
security, whose seal for the purpose of the present security, and 
also for the greater evidence of the matter is appended, along 
with my own proper seal, to these presents in testimony of the 
premises. Acted and given, year, day, and place foresaid." 

Two years after the Treaty of Inverness was 
ratified, David II. died and Robert II. ascended the 
throne.^ Owing to his close connection by marriage 
with the reigning family, the subsequent relations 
of the Lord of the Isles to the Court were of a 

^ In the list of names oi persons who toi.k oath of homage and fealty to 
Robert II. on the day after coronation is that of Johannes de Lyle. 


friendly nature, and before his father-in-law was 
long upon the throne he was confirmed in possession 
of a domain which might well be called princely. 
It may be stated, generally, that the greater part of 
the territories that first belonged in their integrity 
to Somerlecl, but Avere afterw^ards divided among the 
houses of Isla, Bute, and Lome, were now con- 
solidated under one powerful family. One of the 
first acts of King Kobert TL, on assuming royal 
sway, was to confirm his " beloved son, John of 
Isla," in the 300 merklands, once the property of 
Allan, the son of Roderick, namely, the lands of 
Moidart, Arisaig, Morar, Knoydart, being in the 
lordship of Garmoran ; also the Islands of Uist, 
Barra, Bum and Eigg, and Harris, being part of 
Lewis. This deed was executed at Scone, during 
the session of Parliament, on the 9th March, 1371-2. 
According to Skene and others who have followed 
him as an authority incapable of erring, this was the 
first time John of Isla had received feudal investi- 
ture of the patrimony of the Macruaris. As a 
matter of fact, however, we find that on 4th July, 
1363 — the time of John's enjoyment of high court 
favour and ofiice — David II. bestows upon him a 
Charter of Confirmation under the Great Seal 
for all lands possessed by him, by whomsoever 
these had been granted, a deed intended to make 
good all previous gifts granted by Balliol or by 
David, or inherited through his first wife.^ In 
the same year there is a grant of these lands 
made by John to his son Beginald, born of the 
first marriage, with the addition that the castles 
of Benbecula and Island Tirrim, and also the lands 
of Sunart, Letter-lochletter, Ardgour, Hawlaste, and 
sixty merklands in Lochaber, namely, Kilmald^ and 

^ Kegister of the Great Seal. - Probably Kilinallie. 


Locharkaig, are also included.^ This grant Is accom- 
panied by a royal confirmation. It is remarkable 
that neither John's first wife, through whom he 
received the lands, nor her brother Reginald, from 
whom she inherited them, receive any notice in the 
charter. This gift was further confirmed by 
Kobert III. in 1392.^ One point only calls for 
remark in the disposition of lands provided for in 
this instrument ; but it is of great importance, in 
view of future discussions, namely, that these lands 
of Garmoran and the North Isles and others were to 
be held by Reginald and his heirs from John and his 
heirs. Some years later, in 1376, the Lord of the 
Isles received three charters for the remainder of 
his lands, in which Colonsay, Lochaber, Kintyre, and 
Knapdale, and other lands not previously disposed 
of, were granted by the King to himself, " John 
del He," and his heirs by his wife Margaret, the 
daughter of the King. The territories of John 
of Isla were, in this manner, divided into two 
large divisions or lordships — the first, in the order 
of time, being the lordship of Garmoran and the 
Northern Isles, possessed by Reginald as the vassal 
of John and of John's feudal heirs — the other being 
the lordship of the Isles proper, with John himself 
as crown vassal, with a special destination of the 
lands in question in favour of the second family. 

Some idea of the extent of this territory may be 
gained by enumerating the different districts in the 
following order : — 

Mainland Tere,itortes. 
The Lordship of Lochaber, including Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig. 
The Lordship of Garmoran, including Moydart, Arisaig, Morar, 

and Knoydarfc. 
Also Morvern, Knapdale, Duror, Kintyre, and Glenco. 

^ For Charters see Appendix. ^ Orig. Par. Scot. 


Island Territories. 
Isla, Gigha, Colonsay. Lewis, Harris. 

Jura and Scarba. N. Uist, Benbecula. 

Tiree, Eigg, Rum. S. Uist and Barra. 

It is obvious that the Lord of the Isles must have 
possessed conspicuous ability, force of character and 
prudence, to have been able so to build up the power 
and prestige of his race. The circumstances of the 
time, no doubt, were favourable to the aggrandise- 
ment of the Family of Isla. The successive 
transformations in Scottish politics ; the continual 
struggle against English domination, and the 
frequent weakness of the executive power, rendered 
the formation of a semi -independent principality 
possible of achievement. But although the condi- 
tions were auspicious in view of that end, only a 
man of great foresight and commanding personality 
could have seized the golden opportunity for 
promoting the fortunes of his house. That he 
became a man of the first consequence in Scottish 
public life— although his loyalty was not above 
suspicion — has already been fully set forth, but it 
may be added in proof of this that, when the 
abortive Treaty of Newcastle for David's liberation 
was formulated in 1354, John of Isla was one of the 
four barons named as securities for its observance, 
the others being the Steward of Scotland, the 
Lord of Douglas, and Thomas of Moray. 

After 1372 there is little left to record regardino- 
John of Isla or his fortunes, until his death in 1386. 
Here, as elsewhere, the dulness of the annals 
betokened the happiness born of prosperity. The 
Lord of the Isles breathed his last in the Castle 
of Ardthornish at an advanced age, and his dust 
was laid in the Church of Gran, in Hy, where 


the a>sbes of his father, Angus Og, reposed. His 
obsequies ^vel•e observed with great pomp and 
splendour by the Churchmen of the Isles, among 
whom he was known as the "Good John of 
Isla," on account of a miuiificence to their order, 
in which he more than vied with the pious liberality 
of his fathers. 

From Photo, by Messrs G. W. Wilson & Co., Aberdeen. 


We have purposely refrained from disturbing the 
continuity of our narrative by dwelling upon certain 
controversial episodes in John's career which have 
an important bearing upon the future history of 
his family. These cjuestions are in themselves so 
important that there is an obvious advantage in 
dealing with them in the closing part of the pre- 
sent chapter, where they can be treated wdth some 
measure of thoroughness rather than touched upon 
as mere passing details. 

The two marriages of John of Isla open up far- 
reaching questions of genealogical interest, which it 


is not our purpose in this volume to go into with 
detailed exhaustiveness. We cannot, however, 
avoid disposing, if possible, of one question upon 
which future genealogical discussions must hinge, 
and that is the regularity, or the opposite, of 
John's union with Euphemia Macruari, the heiress 
of Garmoran, 

Undoubtedly there has been a tradition which 
seems to have acquired a certain amount of weight, 
that this was one of those irregular unions known 
as handfasting which seem to have prevailed to some 
extent the ancient Highlanders, and wliicli, 
though recognised in the law of Celtic succession, 
were inegular in the eye of the feudal law. We 
are not, of course, surprised to find the historian of 
Sleat, Hugh Macdonald, stating, not that John 
married, but that he lived for ten years^ with the 
mother of the first family, seeing that this seanachie 
is always ready to cast doubts upon the legitimacy 
of heads of branches of the clan whose claims to 
seniority might otherwise be preferred to those of 
the Chiefs of Sleat. We also place little reliance 
upon the conclusions of an ex parte document 
compiled in the same interest, in which — very 
unnecessarily for proof of the main contention — 
the legality of the marriage in question is scornfully 
put out of court. ^ It is, however, somewhat sur- 
prising to find the Clanranald historian make an 
admission so damaging to the legitimacy of the line 
from which the Clanranald Chiefs were descended 
as that John of Isla " did not marry the mother of 
these men (his sons by Euphemia Macruari) from 
the altar. "^ It is equally strange that the MS. of 

^ Collectanea de rebus Albanicis. 

^ Abstract vic^v of the claims to tlio rcprcscntalioii of tlio Lords of tlio 
Isles and Earls of Ros.s. 

^ Eeliquia) CelticDSj vol. II., p. Ia9. 


1700, written also in the Clanranald interest, should, 
while maintaining the legality of the marriage, do so 
with reasons so feeble and inconclusive/ 

How such a misconception of the true facts of 
the case should have arisen can only be accounted 
for in one way. The Scottish Government, when 
refusing to ackno\vledge John's right to the lands 
of Ranald Macruari, supported the refusal by the 
allegation that his marriage with Amy was 
irresrular, and could not be reconciled with the 
principles of feudal tenure. This contention, how- 
ever unfounded, and though a mere pretext for 
curbing a powerful subject, was quite sufficient, 
coming as it did from such high quarters, to impress 
the popular mind and create a tradition which 
appears to have received a considerable amount of 

That John's marriage with Amy was a perfectly 
legal and regular union is a fact amply attested. 
That a lady in Amy's position, belonging to a 
noble Highland family, should have contracted an 
irregular alliance of the nature suggested is in the 
highest degree improbable. But apart from this 
consideration, which is not without its own weight, 
two undoubted facts may be adduced in proof 
First of all, there is a dispensation granted by Pope 
Benedict XH. to John and Amy permitting them 
to enter the state of matrimony. According to the 
canon law of the Church of Home, which was then 
very rigid, the parties, as third cousins, were Avithin 
the forbidden degrees of consanguinity, and this 
barrier to their union could only be removed by the 
grace of the Church's earthly head. And it may 
be stated, in passing, that this very dispensation, 

^i^See Appendix, 


implying as it did some sort of irregularity, may 
have been one ground upon which the Government 
based their declinature to confirm John in the Mac- 
ruari lands, and thus propagated the tradition to 
which we have referred. 

But there is more than this. In the Treaty of 
Inverness the Lord of the Isles, in enumerating the 
hostages pledged for the performance of his sworn 
allegiance, draws a distinction between his " late 
son John and one Donald, another and natural 
son of mine."^ This John was the eldest son of 
Amy, and is spoken of in the same terms as Donald 
his son by the daughter of the Steward of Scotland. 
There seems, therefore, no ground for doubting — and 
in this the standard authorities are at one — that the 
first marriage of John of Isla was a perfectly valid 
and legal union. In point of fact, John's marriage 
with the daughter of the Steward is exposed to far 
more objections, both from a legal and moral point 
of view, than his first marriage. Assuming, as the 
evidence compels us to do, that the first marriage 
was regular, and there being nothing to shew that 
Amy was guilty of any conduct unbecoming a true 
and faithful wife, the competency of a divorce and 
the power to contract a second marriage in her life- 
time is subject to very grave doubts. This aspect 
of the question, however, we are not disposed, at 
present, to discuss. Lookincj at the transaction in 
the most favourable point of view, the alliance with 
the daughter of the future King of Scotland was 
animated by motives of worldly policy rather than 
of lofty principle, was a cruel slight upon a pure and 
honourable lady, and is an indelible stain upon the 
domestic life of " The Good John of Isla." 

1 Seep. 122. 




The Succession of Donald to the Lordship of the Isles. — Reginald 
and the Crown Charter of 1373. — The position of Godfrey. — 
John Mor Tainistear and Alasdair Carrach. — Donald's policy. — 
Celtic supremacy. — Alliance with England. — Richard II. at 
Finlaggan in Isla. — Rebellion of Alasdair Carrach. — The 
Eai'ldom of Ross. — The Lord of the Isles invades the Earl- 
dom. — Defeat of Angus Dubh Mackay at Dingwall. — Donald 
takes possession of Inverness. — ^March to Aberdeen. — The 
Battle of Harlaw. — Defeat of Mar and his Lowlanders. — 
Donald retires to the Isles. — The Regent Albany with an 
army invades Ross, and takes possession of the Earldom. — 
Albany's Campaigns in Argyle. — John of Fordoun's Treaty 
of Portgilp. — The Rebellion of John Mor. — Character and 
death of the Hero of Harlaw, 

Donald, the eldest son of the second marriage of 
John of Isla, succeeded his father as Lord of the 
Isles, to the exclusion of the eldest survivino- son of 
the first marriage. This was not the first instance 
in the genealogy of the Clan Cholla in which the 
line of succession was diverted from the eldest son. 
We have seen how the sons of Alexander, the eldest 
son of Angus Mor, were excluded from the succession, 
owing to the determined opposition of their father 
to the interests of Bruce. It must also be borne in 
mind that the line of succession in the family of the 
Isles, like that of every other Highland family, was 
sometimes regulated more by the Celtic law of 
tanistry than by the feudal law of primogeniture. 
The title of Lord of the Isles — an assertion of 


independence — was itself a Celtic dignity, assumed 
by the heads of this family, and not conferred by the 
Scottish monarch. It had not been assumed for the 
first time by John, as affirmed by Gregory and 
echoed by others, who call that chief the first Lord 
of the Isles. On the contrary, we find in charters 
granted by several heads of the family before the 
time of John the dignity of Lord of the Isles 
assumed and, in several State documents, acknow- 
ledged.^ Somerled himself, the modern founder of 
the family, is referred to again and again as both 
Dominiis and Rex Insularum, and Reginald his 
son, as well as Donald his grandson, are referred to 
as Lords of Innsegall, or of the Isles. Gregory 
affirms that John, on his marriage with the Mac- 
ruari heiress, and adding her patrimony to his already 
extensive territories, assumed the title of Lord of 
the Isles. But Somerled, the ancestor of John, 
possessed a much wider and more extensive terri- 
tory, both in the Isles and on the mainland, than 
any of his successors. It seems, therefore, clear 
that if John assumed this title for the extent of his 
possessions he could not have been the first to do so 
in the famil}'' of the Isles. In a very ancient MS. 
quoted by the Seanachies, Gillebride, the father of 
Somerled, is referred to as Righ Eilein Sidir, or 
King of the Isles ; while another progenitor of the 
family is styled Toiseach of the Isles. Even as far 
back as the 8th century, we find reference in an 
old Scots Chronicle to the " Chief of the Isles," and 
it was only towards the middle or end of the 12th 
century, when feudal institutions had been for some 
time established in the country, and Latin Christi- 
anity had taken root in the soil, that the title of 

^ See Chartulary of Paislej^. Registrr of Great Seal, January 1st, 1507. 


Dominus Insularum first appears on the page of 

But the designation which the family of the Isles 
seems to have preferred to all others was de He, or 
of Isla, to which successive chiefs, from Reginald, 
the son of Somerlecl, to John, the last Lord, clung 
with the fondness of a first love. We might infer 
from this alone, e^^en if there were not other and 
stronger indications pointing in the same direction, 
that from the very beginning of the history of Clan 
Cholla as a family in Argyle, green, grassy Isla, the 
Queen of the Hebrides, was the home of the race. 

We are far from affirming that the old Celtic lav^^ 
of tanistry alone, or even principally, operated in the 
accession of Donald to the lordship of the Isles and 
chiefship of the Clan Donald. While no doubt it 
must have been an important factor in disarming 
opposition amongst a people thoroughly Celtic and, 
to a large extent, influenced by Celtic laws and 
usages, there were other and more powerful elements 
that conspired to place Donald, and not Reginald, in 
the position of head of his father's house. The first 
family of John of Isla had been already thrown in 
the shade by his splendid alliance with the family of 
the High Steward of Scotland through his marriage 
with the Lady Margaret, daughter of the now 
reigning King, if not also by the degradation of 
their mother. Amy Macruari, the unrighteously 
divorced wife of the Island Lord. Reginald himself, 
the surviving eldest son of the first marriage, 
surrendered his rights indifferently, without making 
any claim to the honours of his house, and, according 
to MptcVuirich, in direct opposition to the wishes of 
the men of the Isles. John, the eldest son of the 
first marriage, is referred to in the Treaty of 1369 as 


then dead, while his son Angus, given as a hostage 
on that occasion for the future good behaviour of his 
grandfather, did not survive that potentate, and left 
no issue. According to the MS. of 1450, than which 
there is no higher authority on this matter, Reginald 
was the second son of the first marriage of John of 
Isla, and, failing the issue of the first son, his 
father's feudal heir. The authority of the MS. of 
1450 is supported by others, among whom Mac- 
Vuirich, who, though he makes no mention of John, 
places the name of Reginald before that of Godfrey, 
Reginald had already, in the year 1373, received a 
Crown Charter of the lands of Garmoran and the 
North Isles, all of which were included in the old 
Macruari territory ; but the same charter added also 
the lands of Swynort, Letter-Lochletter, Ardgowar, 
Hawleste, and 60 marklands in Lochaber, namely, 
Lochkymald and Locharkage. In this Charter of 
1373, Reginald is to hold his lands of John of Isla, 
and his heirs. Who was John of Isla's feudal heir ? 
Not Angus, the son of John, who, as already stated, 
had died without issue. It could not have been 
Reginald, now the eldest surviving son of John of 
Isla, for Reginald could not be his own vassal. The 
next heir after Reginald is Godfrey, but he lay no 
claim to the lordship of the Isles, and from what we 
know of his character, if his father's heir, he was not 
the man to stand tamely aside and allow^ Donald 
take possession of the lordship. Besides, the Charter 
of 1373 is itself the best evidence that Godfrey could 
not have been his father's heir. It seems amply 
clear that the policy of John of Isla in securing the 
Charter of 1373 for Reginald was to bribe him out of 
the succession. If Godfrey had been the eldest son, 
it is difficult to see how he could have been so 


utterly ignored by his father. Neither in the 
Charter of 1376. which conveys the lands of 
Colonsay and others to the sons of the second 
marriage, nor in Reginald's Charter of 1373 is there 
mention made of Godfrey, or any disposition made 
in his favour. The subsequent history of the lord- 
ship of the Isles shows very clearly who the heirs 
were referred to in the Charter of 1373. Reginald, 
though the eldest surviving son, became Donald's 
vassal, as the descendants of Reginald continued to 
be the vassals of the future lords of the Isles. 
Donald, however, undoubtedly became, whether by 
a feudal or Celtic law, the superior of all his brothers, 
and his succession as Donald de lie leaves no doubt 
as to the meaning of the Charter of 1373. 

But Donald, besides being backed by the power- 
ful influence of the King, his grandfather, and being 
in the advantageous position of eldest son of the 
family then in possession, appeared in every other 
way, as events afterwards proved, to have been fitter 
to rule over the vast territories of the family than 
Reginald. John of Isla himself took care to disarm 
opposition by making Donald in the Crown Charter 
of 1373 the feudal superior of Reginald. In all 
the circumstances, therefore, and in view of the 
unambitious character which we must ascribe to 
Reginald, the latter acted wisely in accepting the 
situation, and offering no opposition to the Succession 
of his brother. Accordingly, as we find from the 
Book of Clanranald, Reginald, as High Steward of 
the Isles, gave over all the rights and privileges of 
the lordship of the Isles to Donald at Kildonan, in 
Eigg, and he was nominated Macdonald, and Donald 
of Isla, in presence of the principal men of the Isles. ^ 

^ Book of Clanranald in Keliq. Celfc., p. 161, 


Donald had now become not only the feudal 
superior of his brothers, but also, by the consent of 
the men of the Isles, the chief of the Clan Donald — 
another instance of the practical operation of the 
unwritten Celtic law which permitted the deposition 
of one chief, as well as the election of another who 
might not be the direct feudal heir. 

Whatever opposition there may have been to 
Donald's succession, it appears, by his firm yet 
generous rule, to have gradually ceased ; and the 
vassals of the Isles had never been so strongly 
cemented together, nor at any period in the history 
of the lordship of the Isles do we find the followers 
of the Macdonald standard stronger in their attach- 
ment to their chief than we now find them. This 
fact is sufficient proof of Donald's administrative 
powers, no less than of his wise and just rule in an 
age and at a time in the history of the country when 
the strongest often failed. He conciliated his 
brothers by the generous terms meted out to them 
in the division of the lands of the extensive terri- 
tories of which he was the superior. He confirmed 
Keginald in the lands of Garmoran, the North Isles, 
and others, after the death of his father, John of 
Isla. The position and attitude of Godfrey, the 
third son of Amy Macruari, does not appear, 
however, to be very clear, either at this juncture 
or during his subsequent history. We may infer 
from the Charter of 1373, by which Uist, with the 
Castle of Benbecula and other lands, are conferred 
on Reginald, that North Uist had been the portion 
allotted by John to his son Godfrey, and that he 
possessed it during the lifetime of his father. The 
same Insula de Wyst, mentioned in the Charter of 
1373, is confirmed to Eanald MacAUan in the 


year 1498, and all the lands specified in that charter 
as being in Wyst are in South Uist. In a charter 
conveying the Trinity Church of Oarinish, with the 
lands of Carinish and Illeray in North Uist to the 
Monastery and Convent of St John the Evangelist in 
Inchaffray, Godfrey styles himself Godfridus de 
Insidis Dominus de Wyst. But he dates his charter 
apud castrum nostrum de Ellantyrum, the principal 
residence of the Clanranald. According to the Book 
of Clanranald, E/Cginald died in 1386, and Godfrey's 
Charter is dated 7th July, 1389. It appears, there- 
fore, that on the death of Keginald, Godfrey possessed 
himself of Garmoran and other lands granted to the 
former, and that he was allowed to keep possession, 
notwithstanding a confirmation, in the year 1392 by 
Kobert III., of the Castle of Elian tirrim, the lands 
of Garmoran and others, to Reginald's heirs. ^ 
Whether Godfrey was encouraged or in any way 
assisted by Donald in this enterprise we have no 
means of knowing ; but it is evident that he could 
not have kept possession long if Donald had chosen 
to oppose his pretensions, and in view of all the 
circumstances we are warranted in concluding that 
Godfrey made out a plausible claim, as a descendant 
of the Macruaries, to the lands of which he possessed 
himself The sons of Heginald were likely enough 
to have assumed a defensive attitude, and resisted 
the aggressive pretensions of Godfrey to the utmost; 
but it is difiicult to say, in the absence of any 
positive evidence, with what immediate result, even 
though supported, as they were, by the Crown 
Charter of 1373. It appears to be abundantly 
clear that, in the lifetime of Godfrey at least, the 
principal lands in the Macruari territory were not 
possessed by the sons of Heginald. ^ 

^ Register of the Great Seal. 



The sons of the second marriage of John of Isla 
were amply provided for out of the family inherit- 
ance. Donald himself, besides the superiority of 
the whole Macdonald territory included in the 
lordship of the Isles, possessed directly the lands 
of Colonsay and others not included in the grants 
bestowed on the younger sons. John Mor Tainistear, 
the second son, received a grant of 120 marklands 
in Kintyre and 60 marklands in Isla. He became 
the founder of the family styled of Dunnyveg and 
the Glens, the latter of which he acquired through 
his marriage with Margery Bisset, the daughter 
and heiress of MacEoin Bisset, Lord of the Antrim 
Glens. It will be observed that only certain lands 
in Isla were granted to John Mor, whose residence 
there was the Castle of Dun-Naomhaig, while 
Finlaggan Castle, in the same island, was the 
residence of Donald, his brother, the Lord of the 
Isles. As matter of fact, the family of John Mor 
never did possess the whole of the island of Isla, 
either before or after the forfeiture of the lordship 
of the Isles, and they never arrogated to themselves 
the designation de lie, or of Isla, which was the 
peculiar and exclusive designation of the head of 
the house of Macdonald, and ceased with John, the 
last Lord of the Isles, who died in 1498. 

The next son of the second marriage of John of 
Isla was, according to the MS. of 1450 — which is 
always safe to follow — Angus, who having died 
young without issue, there is nothing recorded of 
him but the bare name. The fourth son was 
Alasdair, afterwards known as Alasdair Carrach, 
progenitor of the Macdonalds of Keppoch. On 
him were bestowed lands in Mull, and also the 
lands of Lochaber, preferring these, according to 


the Sleat historian, to the lands of Troternish, m 
Skye, of which he had his choice. 

Besides these, there appears also to have been 
another son of the second marriaj^e of John of Isla, 
named Hugh, hitherto ignored by the historians of 
the family. Kobert the Steward of Scotland, before 
he succeeded to the throne, granted, as Lord of 
Athol, a charter of the whole thanage of Glentilt to 
Eugenius, Thane of Glentilt, and brother of Reginald 
of the Isles. ^ From the fact that the lands were 
conferred by the Steward, we naturally conclude 
that Hugh was of the second family of the Lord of 
the Isles, and, therefore, the Steward's own grand- 
son. In 1382, a safe conduct, dated at Westminster 
on the 21st of October, is granted to Hugh of the 
Isles by Richard II., and an escort of six horsemen 
accompany him to the English borders.^ In the 
same year we find the following entry in the Scottish 
Exchequer Rolls : — " Et Hugoni de Insulis, de dono 
regis, ut patet per literam suam de precepto sub 
secreto, ostensam super compotem sub periculo 
computantis iijli."^ Again in the year 1403 we 
have : — " Et domino quondam Hugoni de Insulis, 
de dono regis, prout pater per literas suas de recepto 
de anno hujus compoti ostensas super compotum 
vli."^ Skene asserts that the family descended 
from Hugh became Mclntoshes from one of them 
whose name was Finlay Toiseach, Thane of Glen- 
tilt. This is highly probable, for we have never 
been able to identify any of the descendants of 
Hugh under the name of Macdonald, and from the 
fact that the heads of the family were styled Thanes 

1 Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. III., p. 272. Atholl Charter Chest, 

" Rotuli Scotiic, vol. 11. , p. 45. 

3 Exchequer Rolls, vol. III., p. 92. ^ Ibid., vol. Ill,, p, 576, 


or Toiseachs, there is every reason to suppose that in 
time they became Mclntoshes. 

Though the lands of the lordship of the Isles 
were thus divided between the sons of the two 
marriages of John of Isla, the superiority of the 
whole still remained in Donald, now the acknow- 
ledged chief of the Clan Donald, and we are not 
by any means disposed to agree with Skene and 
others in saying that this division of the lands of 
the lordship weakened the power of the Clan 
Donald, and finally brought about the downfall of 
the lordship itself The real cause of the downfall 
of the lordship of the Isles must be sought else- 
where, and may be summed up briefly in the 
struggle of Saxon against Celt — a struggle which 
could only result finally, as we find it did, in a fight 
so uneciual, in the triumph of the stronger over the 
weaker forces. Instead of weakening the power of 
the Lord of the Isles, the division of the heritage of 
the family seems very materially to have increased 
it. If the intention of the Charter of 1373 was 
partly to cripple the resources, influence, and organic 
unity of the Island family, that policy certainly did 
not succeed, for the cadets of the family themselves, 
no less than the other vassals of the lordship of the 
Isles, continued to adhere loyally to the Macdonald 
standard until the final attempt to set up the Celtic 
supremacy in the Isles failed in the rebellion of 
Donald Dubh. 

The first mention we have of Donald, Lord of 
the Isles, in any record, is in the year 1369, when, 
according to the Treaty of Inverness, he was given 
as a hostage to the king for the future good 
behaviour of his father, John of Isla. Donald would 
then have been about ten years of age, if we are 


right in assuming that the second marriage of John 
of Isla took place in the year 1358. His compulsory 
residence in the Castle of Dumbarton could not in 
the nature of things have tended to make him loyal 
to the Scottish throne. The policy of the Scottish 
State in detaining Donald, and the other sons of the 
Lord of the Isles, though the means of bringing 
about a temporary cessation of hostilities in the 
Isles, proved ultimately an unwise and short-sighted 
policy. Donald is no sooner set at liberty than he 
assumes a defensive attitude, and he seems deter- 
mined to wreak vengeance on his former jailers. 
He at once assumed the role of an Independent 
prince. He owed no loyalty to the Scottish State ; 
on the contrary he looked upon the Kings of 
Scotland as interlopers within the Island territory. 
The Celt and the Saxon had little In common, and 
Donald was intensely Celtic. The two races. In all 
their aims and characteristics, in language and in 
sentiment, were as wide apart as the poles. 
Donald's policy clearly was to set up a Celtic 
supremacy In the West, independent of all inter- 
ference from the Saxon importation in the South. 

It is from this purely Celtic point of view that 
his conduct and that of his house must be judged, 
and viewing It in this light it may well be justified. 
Loyalty to the Scottish State in these circumstances 
could hardly be expected, and could not consistently 
be observed by the Island Lord. A princely inheri- 
tance had been handed down to him through 
successive generations of men inspired by the same 
motives and actuated by the same feeling of hostility 
towards the enemies of their race, and Donald must 
now consider how best to preserve it. 


The strained political* relations between England 
and Scotland favoured negotiation with the former 
country, and accordingly the Island Lord and his 
brothers are found visiting the English Court 
frequently during the years from 1378 to 1408. 
In the year 1378 a safe conduct is granted by 
Richard II. to Donald, " filio Johannis de Insulis, 
clerico," on his return from the University of Oxford, 
where he had been educated for the Church.^ This 
Donald is referred to in the treaty concluded 
between David 11. and John, Lord of the Isles, in 
1369, and is given on that occasion as a hostage for 
the future good behaviour of his father." In 1382, 
Hugh of the Isles, as we have seen, visits England, 
probably as ambassador from the Isles, and is 
honoured on his return with an escort of six horse- 
men.^ In 1388, the Lord of the Isles and his 
brothers, Godfrey and John Mor, visit the English 
Court and are received as independent Celtic 
princes, while at the same time they enter into a 
league with Hichard II., to which John, Bishop of 
the Isles, is a party.* 

In the year 1400, a safe conduct, dated at West- 
minster on February 5th, is granted to John of the 
Isles and Donald his brother ^\ith an escort of 
80 horsemen.^ From the language in which this 
document is couched, it seems the brothers were 

^ Rotuli Scotipe, vol. II., p. 11. 

2 Vide Ti-eaty of Inverness, p. 121. 

^"Salvus Concluctus pro Hugone of the Oute Isles." Westminster, 
Oct. 21, 1382.— Rotuli Scotiro, vol. II., p. 45. 

^ " Episcopo Sodorensi datur potestas tractandi de confederationibus cum 
filiis Johannis, uujjer domini Insularum." — Rotuli Scoticc, vol. II., jj. 94. 

^ " Rex universis et singulis admirallis, etc., salu tern Sciatis quod cum 
nobilis vir Johannes de Insulis Dorainus Dunwage et de Glyuns et Donaldus 
fratur ejus, etc." — Rotuli Scotite in Turri Londouensi, vol. II., 155. 


received at the English Court with much distinction 
and ceremony. In July of the same year we find 
the two brothers again visiting England and 
entering into a defensive league with Henry lY.^ 
In the years 1405 and 1408, Donald and John 
repeat these visits, and renew their alliance with the 
English monarch.^ Thus the exigencies of political 
warfare forced the Island family to seek the friendly 
alliance of England against an aggressive Scottish 
neighbour, and English statesmen were not slow to 
take advantage of so favourable an opportunity to 
advance the English policy towards Scotland. The 
conduct of the Island Lord may appear on the face 
of it unpatriotic, but in reality it was not so, though, 
as it ultimately proved, it was an unwise and short- 
sighted policy. It was a consistent and open 
declaration of the policy of his house, and an 
assertion of the ancient Celtic independence of his 
family. Meantime it served to disarm opposition on 
the part of the Scottish State, and secured the 
Independence of the Island Lord for a time, though 
ultimately it helped to bring about the downfall of 
his family. 

A peculiar incident In the romantic exile of 
Richard II. of England Is an indication of the 
friendly alliance between the family of the Isles 
and the English Court at the period under review. 
The revolution that placed Henry of Lancaster on 
the throne of England drove Richard II. , as a State 
prisoner, to Pontefract Castle. Shortly afterwards 
the news spread abroad that Richard was dead, but, 
In reality, and there Is no reason to doubt the 
accuracy of the story, he had escaped from his 

1 Rymer's Foedera, vol. VIII., p. 146. - Ibidem, pp. 418, 527. 


jailers and, in the disguise of a beggar, found his 
way to Finlaggan Castle in Isla, the seat of the 
Lord of the Isles. Here he was recognised by- 
Margery Bisset, the wife of John Mor Tainistear, 
brother of the Lord of the Isles. This lady, who 
had recently been married to John Mor, had seen 
the unfortunate royal exile in her native Ireland, 
and immediately recognised him though in such 
humble disguise.^ Donald received the deposed 
monarch kindly, and hospitably entertained him, 
until a safe asylum had been secured for him at 
the court of the Scottish King. 

The differences between Donald of Isla and his 
royal relatives, though at first not very easily 
defined, seem to have had the effect of causing a 
domestic quarrel between them. Donald and his 
brothers, John Mor and Alasdair Carrach, were 
accused of want of filial affection towards their 
mother, the King's sister. What grounds there 
were for this serious charge against the brothers 
it is difficult to say, for none were specified, though 
we may easily conjecture that the brunt of their 

^" Bot in the Out-Tlys of Scotland than 
There was a travelland a pure man ; 
A Lordis dochter of Ireland, 
Of the Bissatis there dwellaiid, 
Wes weddyt with a gentleman — 
The Lord of the Ilys bruither than, 
In Ireland before quhan schee liad bene, 
And the King Richard tliar had Fene ; 
Quhen in the Islys schee saw this man 
Schee let that she weel kend hym than, 
Till her maistere soon schee jjast 
And thar till hym all sae fast 
That hee wes the King of Yugland 
That she before saw in Irland, 
When hee wes tharin before, 
As schee drew than to memore." — Wtntoune, 


offending was their Celtic tendencies generally, and' 
particularly their independent attitude towards the 
Scottish State. In these circumstances, and amid 
such surroundings, the King enjoined the Earl of 
Fife to protect his sister, the Lady of the Isles. 
This interference was very naturally resented by 
Donald and his brothers, and it so exasperated 
them that they immediately raised the standard 
of rebellion. Though Donald had made no formal 
claim to the Earldom of Ross at this early stage 
in the chequered history of that much contested 
possession, we may well believe that he followed 
closely the course of events, and that he was by 
no means a disinterested spectator. On the death 
of the notorious Wolf of Badenoch in 1394, the 
Castle and lands of Urquhart, which formed part 
of the extensive Earldom of Ross, and which were 
held by the Wolf in right of his wife, the Countess 
of Ross, became the scene of much confusion and 
strife. Alasdair Carrach, aided and abetted by 
his brother, the Lord of the Isles, threw himself 
into the conflict and took possession of the Castle 
and lands of Urquhart. His tenure was a short- 
lived one. The details of this rebellion have not 
been preserved, but it had one result at least in 
the imprisonment of Alexander Carrach, who seems 
to have rendered himself more conspicuous than 
the other brothers, and thus sustained the character 
which so w^ell became him in after years. The 
imprisonment of Alexander was little better than 
a farce, which, having been played out, in the 
course of the following year he was released. 
Donald, who had been his kindly jailer, had, how- 
ever, to appear before Parliament to answer for 


his prisoner, which having done, the feigned royal 
anger was assuaged.^ 

When Donald of Isla again appears on the 
historical stag^e it is as chief actor in the drama 
of the year 1411. He does not appear to have 
taken any prominent part in the politics of the 
years immediately following the death of King 
E-obert III., nor do we find him opposing, or 
acquiescing in, the appointment of the Duke of 
Albany as E-egent of the Kingdom, though we 
may conjecture from after events that he did not 
look upon it with favour. The remote situation 
of the island lordship, the assertion of independence 
on the part of Donald himself, together with the 
entire want of sympathy with southern aims, 
explains the disappearance of a nobleman of the 
Island Lord's rank from the Scottish politics of 
this period. It is only when the interests of his 
own family and race are at stake that the Island 
Chief steps boldly upon the stage and plays a 
prominent part. The rumoured resignation of her 
rights by Euphemia Lesley, the daughter and 
heiress of Alexander Lesley, Earl of Hoss, is the 
cause of his now re-appearing from his temporary 
retirement. The Earldom of Ross was too great 
a prize to be lightly passed over by the Island 
Lord, and he eagerly watches his opportunity to 
lay hold on it. In extent the earldom comprised 
the old district of Hoss, Cromarty, and that portion 
of ancient Argyle extending westwards from Glenelg 
to Lochbroom, including the coast lands of Kintail, 
Lochalsh, Lochcarron, Applecross, and Gairloch. 

1 Acts of the Pari, of Scotland, Vul. I., p. 503. April 22, 1398—" Preterea 
ordinatum est quod si ofEeratur tractatua ut submissio ex parte rebellaucium 
quod uon recipiatur uiai in forma que aequitur viz. quod domiuus iiisularum 
et fratres sui Johannes et Alexander et consilarii eorum principales, etc., etc." 



It extended Inland as far east as Urquhart, and 
included the parish of Kilmorack, now in the county 
of Inverness. In addition to the foregoing the 
Earls of Ross were superiors of lands of which the 
following are the more important : — In the County 
of Aberdeen, the lands of Auchterless and King- 
Edward ; in the County of Inverness, the lands of 
Innermerky in the lordship of Badenoch ; in the 
County of Nairn, the lands of Balmakayth, Both, 
Banchre, Bate, Kynowdie, Kinsteary, Kilravock, 
Easter Geddes, Dumnaglass, and Cawdor. 

This large territory, or at all events Boss proper, 
had formerly been under the sway of Celtic maor- 
mors, and for centuries had suffered from the 
incursions of both Norse and Dane.^ At this time 
the Scandinavian element largely preponderated 
over the original Pictish inhabitants, but the two 
had gradually become amalgamated into one people, 
and the Celtic spirit, which had survived the shock 
of centuries of Teutonic oppression, seems still to 
have pervaded the great body of the population. 
The introduction of feudal laws and institutions in 
the South aifected, almost simultaneously, the old 
order of things in the North. The Celtic maormor 
gave place to the Norman baron. The last maormor 
of Boss of whom we have any record was Macbeth, 
who became King of Scotland in 1040, and was 
murdered in the year 1056.^ The first Earl of Boss 
of whom there is any notice was Gillanders, of the 
Celtic family of Obeolan, who were hereditary lay 
abbots of Applecross ; but whether he assumed the 
dignity or had it conferred upon him, he is at all 

^ Annals of Tigernach. Ncnuius (Irish Version), pp. Ixxvii., Ixxix. 
-Reg. Prior S. Andre, p. 114. Chron. de Mailros, pp. 47-51. lunes'a 
Critical Essay, pp. 791, 803, 

bONALD (yp HARLAW. 14.? 

events referred to as Earl in the year 1160.^ The next 
Earl of Koss appears to have been Malcolm MacHeth, 
who held the earldom only for a very brief period.^ 
In 1161, William the Lion created Florence, Count 
of Holland, Earl of Ross, on his marriage with that 
King's sister.^ In or about tiie year 1212, Alex- 
ander II. created Ferchard Macintagart, of the 
Obeolan family of AjDplecross, Earl of Boss, for 
services rendered to the King. He was succeeded 
by his son William as second Earl of the new 
creation. William was succeeded by his son William 
as third Earl. The third Earl was succeeded by 
his son Hugh as fourth Earl. Earl Hugh, who 
was killed in the battle of Halidon Hill, was 
succeeded by his son William as fifth Earl. 
Earl William, on the death of his brother Hugh, 
his heir, resigned the earldom, but David II. 
renewed a grant of it to him and his heirs 
male, with remainder to Sir Walter Lesley and 
his wife, the Earl's daughter. Thus the line of 
succession was diverted from heirs male exclusively 
to heirs general, and accordingly on the death of 
the fifth Earl in 1372, his daughter succeeded him 
as Countess of Hoss. Sir Walter Lesley having 
died in 1382, his widow, Euj)hemia, Countess of 
Koss, married Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, 
to whom the King, at the desire of Euphemia, 
confirmed a grant of the earldom, and he after- 
wards appears in record as Earl of Boss, to the 
exclusion of Alexander Lesley, Euphemia's son. 
Alexander Lesley, however, ultimately succeeded to 
the Earldom in the year 1398, and dying in 1402, 
his only daughter, who bore the family name of 

^ Wyntoune. ^ Register of Duufermliue, p. 25. 
» P»lg. lUust., vol. I., pp. 20, 21. 


Euphemia, became Countess of Ross. The mother 
of the Countess of Ross was the Lady Isabella 
Stewart, daughter of Robert, Duke of Albany, the 
regent of the kingdom, and her aunt was Margaret 
Lesley, daughter of Sir Walter Lesley and the 
Countess Euphemia of Ross. The Lady Margaret 
Lesley was the wife of Donald, Lord of the Isles, 
and therefore the nearest living relative in the line 
of succession to the Earldom of Ross after the 
Countess Euphemia. 

In the event of Euphemia's death or resignation, 
it is obvious that we have abundant materials for a 
fierce domestic quarrel, and on account of the 
position of the parties, the elements of a stirring 
historical drama. The principal actors in the events 
that followed were all nearly related by blood to one 
another, as well as kindred to the Scottish throne. 
Chief in position was Albany, who for many years 
held, as Regent, the supreme power in the State. 
Devoid of the warlike qualities which his brothers 
possessed, in fact a man of suspected courage in the 
field, he was intellectually head and shoulders above 
all the other sons of Robert II. But his talents, 
which undoubtedly were lofty, were prostituted 
to dark and selfish intrigue. It is no unfounded 
suspicion that he condoned, if he did not actually 
compass, the murder of the Duke of Rothesay, his 
nephew, and heir apparent to the throne; and if 
he did not allow his other nephew James to be 
captured by the English, he ofiered no protest 
against his long imprisonment. Of determined 
resolution and unflinching purpose, he never amid 
the various and conflicting currents of State policy 
lost sight of his own ends, nor did he scruple to 
sweep out of his path whoever stood in the way of 


the execution of his designs. Had he been a single- 
hearted Scottish patriot, animated by zeal for the 
national welfare, and the safety of the State, his 
policy in keeping the family of the Isles out of 
the succession to the Earldom of E-oss would, from a 
national standpoint, have been worthy of all praise. 
If the addition of (iarmoran and the North Isles to 
the House of Isla in the reign of David II. con- 
stituted a source of danger to Scottish supremacy, 
the further addition of the Earldom of Ross to the 
already extensive Island domains, would make the 
Island Lord a still more formidable antao-onist. 
But there were interests dearer to Albany than the 
Scottish weal. His own interests came first, the 
aggrandisement of his family came second in the 
order of importance, and the interests of Scotland 
came last. But it suited his personal and family 
ambition to put on this occasion the last first, and 
thus, under cover of patriotism, play the game 
which through his far-sighted policy he had so 
elaborately planned. The course pursued reveals 
the hand of a master in diplomatic arts. Euphemia 
Lesley, the heiress of Boss, was sickly, some say 
deformed, and not likely to live long.^ If she died 
without making a special destination of her posses- 
sions and honours, these would in the natural course 
of things devolve on Lady Margaret of the Isles. 
This was a consummation by all means, fair or foul, 
to be prevented, and hence the cunningly devised 
plot. The heiress of so much worldly wealth and 

^ " Alexander Lesley, Earl of Ross, married Euphame, and had issue a 
crookbacked daughter, Euphame " — Rothes MSS. in the Adv. Lib., p. 99. 
" Alexander Lesley, after the death of his father, succeeded in the Earldom 
Ross. He married Lady Euphame, &c., and by her had issue a daughter 
Euphame 'yat was crouchbacked ' " — MS. History of the Earls of Ross in 
Advocates' Library, lac. v. 6-17, p. 327. 


honour is found to have interests that are not of 
this world. She is found to have a call from heaven 
to devote herself to the exclusive exercise of piety. 
She must be secluded from all earthly interests, and 
resign for ever every worldly ambition. Above all, 
she must not directly or indirectly be brought under 
the influence of the Lord of the Isles and his lady. 
Euphemia at length betakes herself to a convent, 
and the cool and wary schemer that wielded the 
helm of State was biding the time when she came of 
legal age to resign her rights into his hands. If she 
died before then, he probably had another card to 
play, but meantime she was secure against all 
machinations but his own. 

Donald was no match for Albany in this game of 
Tpoliticsl Ji7iesse. Whatever were his faults, or those 
of his race, they never fought with the weapons of 
duplicity or intrigue, though often their victims. 
The Lord of the Isles, therefore, had recourse to the 
argument which was best understood in the brave 
days of old. In addition to the conquest of Ross, it 
is said that Donald had other designs, but it is 
difficult to conceive what these could have been. 
The wild and extensive scheme which historians 
have alleged Donald to have conceived of making 
himself master of all Scotland is too utterly 
incredible, and may be dismissed at once as 
unworthy of any consideration. The conflict, more- 
over, was not one between Celt and Saxon as such, 
nor was the struggle one for the supremacy of the 
one race over the other. Unquestionably the 
occasion of unfurling the Macdonald banner at this 
time was the conduct of Albany, in relation to the 
disputed succession to the Earldom of Ross, and 
Donald had no higher ambition than to make him- 
self master of that extensive territory. 


According to the Sleat historian, Donald told the 
Governor that he would either lose all or gain the 
earldom to which he had such a good title. He 
maintained that Euphemia, the heu^ess to the earl- 
dom, having become the bride of heaven, and given 
up the world, might be regarded as legally dead, and 
Lady Margaret of the Isles became ipso facto her 
successor/ The contention seemed a sound enough 
one, according to the canons of equity, and our 
sympathies are naturally with Donald, who, with 
chivalrous daring, was prepared to fight with his 
strong right arm for what he deemed his own, rather 
than with the wily Regent, who pulled the wires of 
State, and had the resources of a kingdom at his 

The heather was soon aflame, and the fiery cross 
blazed through the Isles, as well as through those 
mainland regions in which the Macdonald power 
was predominant. The whole Clan, with its vassals, 
raUied to the fight. From many a glen, and strath, 
and isle, the Gaelic warriors hastened to the 
rendezvous, where the ancient banner of the Kings 
of Innsegall was unfurled to its native breeze. The 
Macleans and Mackinnons, the hardy Clans of Mull, 
the Clan Chattan from lone Lochaber, and the 
Macleods from the rugged hills of Harris and Lewis, 
obeyed the call to arms. 

On the point of Ardthornish, in Morvern, com- 
manding the water-way which washes the shores of 
ancient Oirthirghael, stood a residence and strong- 
hold of the Macdonalds, 

" Which on her frowning steep 
Twixt cloud and ocean hung." 

^ Euphame "rendered herself religious among the nuns of North Berwick in 
Haddingtonshire" — MS. Hist, of the Earls of Ross, &c, 


Only the walls of its keep are still erect, towering 
high above the rocky promontory like a sentinel 
grim and hoary keeping watch and ward, where of 
old, in the days of its glory, it 

" Overlooked dark Mull thy mighty sound, 
Where thwarting tides with mingled roar 
Part thy swarth hills from Morvern's shore." ^ 

From its commanding position, Ardthornish was well 
adapted as a vantage ground for defence or attack, 
by land or sea, and there could be no better 
rendezvous for the assembling of the host that was 
to invade the Earldom of Ross. 

" 'N uair dh' eireas Clann Domhnuill 
Na leomhainn tha garg 
Na beo-bheithir, mh6r-leathunn 
Chonnspunnach, gharbh, 
Luchd sheasamh na c5i'ach 
Do 'n ordugh Lamh-dhearg, 
Mo dhoigh gu 'm bu ghorach 
Dhaibh t6iseachadh oirbh."^ 

" When the valiant Clan D6nuill, 
The lions in might. 
Like thunder bolts gleaming, 
With blades flashing bright. 
Brave sons of the Ked Hand, 
Declare for the right, 
Then woe to the foeman 
That meets them in fight." 

It was a little after midsummer when Macdonald 
and his fleet arrived on the West Coast of Boss- 
shire, and the army disembarked at Strome. March- 
ing through the great glens of Ross they soon 
reached the vicinity of Dingwall. But the conquest 
of Boss was not to be unopposed. The county of 
Caithness, as might be expected from jts position, 

^ The Lord of the Isles. - Iain Dubh Mac Jain-Ic Aileiu, 


was from an early period subject to Norse Influence, 
and In the course of time came to be occupied by a 
population largely Norse In composition. It formed 
part of the possessions of the great Norwegian Jarls 
of Orkney from the beginning of the 10th down to 
the end of the 12th century. The district of 
Strathnaver, however, which formed the western 
portion of the ancient county of Caithness, differed 
from the rest of that region not only by reason of 
Its wild and mountainous surface, but also in being 
the- abode of a people who, amid the racial changes 
that took place In that time, retained their Celtic 
blood and speech largely unafiected by Norwegian 
admixture. The most powerful clan that occupied 
this portion of Caithness at the beginning of the 
15th century was the Clan Mackay. It Is said that 
at that time Angus Dubh Mackay could bring into 
the field 4000 fighting men. The news of Donald's 
march through Wester Ross having penetrated to 
far Strathnaver, Angus Dubh Mackay determined 
to oppose the progress and clip the wings of the 
Hebridean eagle. He hastily gathered his forces, 
said to have been 2500 strong, and marching to 
Dingwall, arrived just as the Islesmen were seen 
approaching. He Immediately assumed the ofien- 
slve, but failed to stem the tide of the advancing 
force. A fierce engagement took place, in which 
the men of Caithness, though they fought with the 
bravery and firmness characteristic of the Mackay 
clan, were routed. Rory Galld, brother of the 
chief, and many others were slain, whilst Angus 
Dubh himself was taken prisoner. Macdonald of 
the Isles having taken possession of the Castle of 
Dingwall and garrisoned It, resumed his march, and 
proceeded to Inverness by Beauly. At the latter 


place he halted, and divertmg his line of march he 
proceeded to Castle Downie and administered a 
well-merited chastisement to the Laird of Lovat 
and his Frasers, who had the temerity to oppose 
the Island Lord's pretensions to the Earldom of 
E,oss. Having at length arrived at Inverness, he 
planted his standard in the Highland Capital, and 
summoned all the fighting men of Ross, and of the 
North generally, to his banner. The summons met 
with a wide response from the purely Celtic regions 
of Scotland, and many, emboldened by the success 
that already attended the Island Chief's efforts, 
took up arms to support his cause. 

According to a MS. history of the Mackenzies, 
quoted in the Macdonald Collections, " Murdoch 
Nichoil Mackenzie was the only chief in the North 
Hig-hlands who refused assistance to Macdonald 
when he fought against the Governoi-'s forces at 
Harlaw. He v^as taken prisoner by the Earl of 
Ross at Dingwall."^ The Chief of the Mackenzies 
was at this time of so little consequence that it 
was hardly worth while keeping him in " durance 
vile" during the absence of the Island Chief at 
Harlaw. But he was not the only chief in the 
North who opposed Macdonald's invasion of Ross. 
A much more powerful individual, in the person of 
the Chief of the Frasers, had not only endeavoured 
to check Donald's progress through the Earldom, 
but afterwards fought against him at Harlaw. 

No sooner had Donald mustered the full force 
of his followers than he launched on what was 
apparently a fresh enterprise. Instead of standing 
on the defensive and guarding what he had gained, 
he again assumed the aggressive. It has by some 

^ Macdonald Collections, p. 1248. - .. 


been conjectured that, In addition to the invasion 
of Ross, there was another and more ambitious 
plan of campaign in which Donald expected to 
form a junction with his English allies. If this 
was so, and we can only speculate, England's own 
difl&culties in France proved Scotland's friends in 
need, and if Donald cherished any expectations of 
southern aid, he was doomed to disappointment. 
Donald, though in 2:)ossession of the Earldom of 
Ross, well knew that he was not to be left long 
undisturbed in the enjoyment of his recent acquisi- 
tion, and, taking time by the forelock, he resolved 
to push his way eastwards in the expectation of 
swelling his ranks as he proceeded, and thus pre- 
senting such a formidable and imposing appearance 
as to strike terror into the heart of the opposing 
host. Besides, Donald, in the course of his quarrel 
with the Regent, threatened to burn the town of 
Aberdeen, and to put that threat into execution 
was, at least, one motive for the intended invasion 
of the granite city. The partial or total burning 
of the town of Inverness, in which the famous 
oak bridge over the Ness perished, though valiantly 
defended by a stalwart townsman of the name of 
Cumine, and the ravages committed by the Island 
host as they traversed the counties of Moray and 
Aberdeen ought, without any hesitation, to be taken 
with a very large grain of salt. That Donald used 
the weapons at his disposal to advantage may well 
be believed — those weapons that at that time were 
inseparable from and incidental to the fortunes of 
war ; but the fire and sword with which he 
devastated any portion of the large district of 
country through which he passed were not used 
wantonly or merely in quest of plunder, though 


that was always acceptable and needful for the 
support of his army, but largely because he had 
not received the accession to his ranks which he 
anticipated and demanded. 

Three weeks of July of the year 1411 had elapsed 
when the Highland army, which cannot be estimated 
at less than 10,000 strong, quitted Inverness. The 
Island Lord himself commanded the main body, 
which was composed of the Isles-men, including the 
Macleods of Lewis and Harris under their chiefs. 
The right wing was commanded by Hector Maclean 
of Duart, commonly known as Eachunn Ruadh nan 
Cath, while the left was under the command of The 
Mackintosh. John Mor Tainistear of Dunnyveg led 
the reserve. When the news arrived in Aberdeen 
that Donald and his host were on their way to 
consign the town to the flames, the panic may well 
be conceived. The terror which the approach of the 
Highlanders struck into the popular mind has been 
reflected in the ballad poetry of the country. Scott, 
in " The Antiquary," seems to have caught the 
spirit of the time, and the following lines, written, 
of course, from the Lowland point of view, show that 
Donald was not to have it all his own way on his 
memorable march towards Harlaw : — 

" Now haud your tongue, both wife and carle, 
And listen, great and sma', 
And I will sing of Glenallan's Earl 
That fought on the red Harlaw. 

" The coronachs cried on Benachie, 
And doun the Don and a'. 
And Hieland an' Lawland may mournfu' be 
For the sair field of Harlaw. 

" They saddled a hundred milk white steeds, 
They hae bridled a hundred black, 
With a chafron of steel on each horse's head, 
And a good knight upon his back. 


*' They hadna ridden a mile, a mile, 
A mile, but barely ten, 
When Donald came banking down the brae 
Wi' twenty thousand men. 

" Their tartans they were waving wide. 
Their glaives were glancing clear. 
Their pibrochs rung frae side to side. 
Would deafen ye to hear. 

" The great Earl in his stirrups stood 
That Highland host to see : 
Now here a knight that's stout and good 
May prove a jeopardie : 

" What wouldst thou do, my squire so gay 
That rides beside my reyne. 
Were ye Glenallau's Earl the day. 
And I were Roland Cheyne ? 

" To turn the rein were sin and shame. 
To fight were wondrous peril. 
What would ye do now, Roland Cheyne, 
Were ye Glenallan's Earl ? 

" Were I Glenallan's Earl this tide. 
And ye were Roland Cheyne, 
The spur should be in my horse's side 
And the bridle upon his mane. 

" If they hae twenty thousand blades, 
And we twice ten times ten, 
Yet they hae but their tartan plaids. 
And we are mail-clad men. 

" My horse shall ride through ranks sae rude, 
As through the moorland fern. 
Then ne'er let the gentle Norman blude 
Grow cauld for Highland kerne." 

The chief magnate of the regions of Garioch and 
Strathbogie through which Donald and his host 
advanced was Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, the 
Glenallan's Earl of Scott's ballad, and it is a remark- 


able fact that as the quarrel had been from the 
outset between kinsfolk, Donald's career was destined 
to be interrupted by a first cousin of his own. The 
career of this nobleman is an interesting chapter 
in the annals of that wild and romantic age, a 
blending together of the lawlessness and chivalry so 
characteristic of the time. In early life he had been 
the leader of a band of freebooters from the wilds 
of Badenoch, with which his father, the notorious 
Wolf, known as Alasdair Mbr Mac an Eigh, was 
so much associated. By means of his banditti, he 
eventually raised himself to the Earldom of Mar. 
Having surprised Sir Robert Drummond of Stobhill 
in his castle, and probably hastened his end, this 
freebooter shortly afterwards took captive Sir 
Robert's widow, who was Countess of Mar in her 
own right, in her Castle of Kildrummie, and forced 
her to give him her hand in marriage. Subsequent 
events seem to show that the lady was not unfor- 
giving in her resentment at the conduct of this 
" braw wooer," although his fii^st advances were none 
of the gentlest. When afterwards he appeared 
before the castle gates, placing its contents, adjuncts, 
keys, and title-deeds, at her disposal, she not only 
received him as her husband, but conveyed to him 
the earldom with all its wealth and dignities. On 
her death, the Earl, inspired by the knight-errantry 
of the time, visited foreign lands in quest of adven- 
tures. Having taken part in the Continental wars 
of the period, and sown his political wild oats, he 
returned to Scotland, and now we find him the 
chosen leader of the knights and burgesses of Aber- 
deen in their preparations to resist the advance of 
the men of the Isles. 


The battle of Harlaw has been described as a 
critical conflict between the opposing forces of civil 
order and barbarism, Donald has been pictured as 
the leader of plundering bands ; Mar as the repre- 
sentative of civilised virtue. In view of the facts 
of the case, we can hardly accept of this rough and 
ready classification. The feuds of the Lowland 
barons, the fire and sword, and rapine, which they 
often carried, not only into England, but into each 
other's domains, are quite as much opposed to the 
laws that regulate civilised communities as the 
creachs of their Highland neighbours. This fact 
has too often been calmly overlooked by the writers 
of Scottish history. No doubt there are very 
marked difierences between the forces that met on 
the field of Harlaw. The distinctions between Celtic 
and feudal Scotland were there brought out into 
bold relief. Whether the one was a higher type of 
culture than the other ; whether the men-at-arms 
who fought in a panoply of mail, with spear and 
battle axe, and metal shield, were more refined 
specimens of the human race than the plaided and 
kilted warriors who fought with claymore, and were 
protected by their wooden sliields, may be a matter 
of opinion ; but the one type is not further removed 
than the other from the civilisation of to-day. 

When the news of Macdonald's march through 
Moray went abroad, the gentlemen of Aberdeenshire, 
with their armed retainers, assembled under the 
leadership of the Earl of Mar. Mail-clad mounted 
knights, armed to the teeth after the manner of 
Norman chivalry, the number of which is not easily 
determined, but generally estimated at a little more 
than a thousand men, rode off to meet the foe. 
Inferior in numbers to the forces of the Isles, the 


disadvantage was heavily discounted by the com- 
pleteness of their equipment and their strong 
defensive armour. Mar advanced by Inverury, and 
came in sight of the Highland army at the village 
of Harlaw, some ten miles from the county town of 
Aberdeen, whither had flocked to his standard the 
gentlemen of Aberdeen, Angus, and the Mearns. 
The Ogilvies, the Lindsays, the Carnegies, the 
Lesleys, the Lyons, the Livings, the Gordons, the 
Abercrombies, the Arbuthnots, the Bannermans, 
the Leiths, the Douglases, the Barclays, the 
Mowats, the Duguids, the Fotheringhams, the 
Frasers, and the Burnets — all were there in stern 
defence of hearth and home. Mar himself com- 
manded the main body of his small force, while Sir 
Alexander Ogilvie, Sheriff of Angus, and Sir James 
Scrymgeour, Constable of Dundee, led the van- 

Donald's army, consisting chiefly of the Macleans, 
the Mackintoshes, the Camerons, the Mackinnons, 
the Macleods, and all the vassals of the lordship of 
the Isles, was drawn up in imitation of the old 
Pictish mode, in the cuneiform order of battle.'' 
Donald himself commanded the main body, with the 
Macleods of Lewis and Harris as his lieutenants ; 
while the right and left respectively were under the 
command of Hector Boy Maclean of Duart and 
Mackintosh. John Mor Tainistear stood at the head 
of the reserve. The courage of the men of the Isles 
was roused to the most patriotic fervour by the 
stirring appeal of MacYuirich, the Tyrtaeus of the 
campaign, to remember the ancient valour of the 
race of Conn — • 

^ Logan's Scottish Gael, Ed. 187G, Vol. I., p. 155. 


" A chlanna Chuinn, cuirnhnichibh, 

Cruas an am na h-iorghuill." ^ 
" Sons of Conn remember 

Hardihood in time of strife." 

The Highlanders, armed with broadswords, bows 
and axes, and wooden shields, rushing forward with 
furious onset and shouting the slogan of their clan, 
were received by the Lowlanders with steadiness 
and valour. Sir James Scrymgeour, Constable of 
Dundee, and Sir Alexander Ogilvie, Sheriff of 
Angus, who with a band of knights occupied the 
van of the Lowland army, endeavoured to cut 
their way through the Highland columns that were 
bearing down upon them like a flood, but they were 
soon overwhelmed and slain. In other parts of the 
field, the contest raged with fury. The brave Mar 
with his knights fought on with desperate courage 
till the Lowland army was reduced to a skeleton ; 
but it was only after the long summer day had 
faded away at last, and the dark curtain of night 
enfolded the blood-stained field, that the exhausted 
combatants sheathed their blades. The Lowland 
army was annihilated, and the flower of the chivalry 
of Angus and the Mearns lay dead upon the field : — 

" There was not sin' King Kenneth's days, 
Sic strange, intestine, cruel strife 
In Scotlande seen, as ilka man says^ — 
Where monie likelie lost their life ; 
Whilk made divorce 'tween man and wife, 
And monie children fatherless. 
And monie a ane will mourn for aye. 
The brime battle of the Harlaw." 

^ Prosnachidh-catha, le Lachlainn M6r Mac Mhuirich Albauaich, do 
DhnmhnuU a He, Righ Innsegall, latha Oath Ghariach. This exti-aordinary 
poem is given in full in the Collection of the Stewarts only, and it was printed 
for the first time in Ronald Macdonald's Collection in 1776, where only a few 
lines are given. 


To the east of Scotland, Harlaw was a miniature 
Flodden, and the wail of a hundred years later over 
that bloody field, " that the flowers of the forest 
were a' wede away," would not have been inappro- 
priate here. On Mar's side, according to the 
Lowland chroniclers, 500 were killed and many 
wounded. Among the men of note who fell were 
Sir Alexander Ogilvie, Sheriff of Angus, Sir Thomas 
Murray, Sir James Scrymgeour, Sir Alexander 
Irvine of Drum, Sir E-obert Maule of Panmure, 
Sir William Abernethy of Salton, Sir Alexander 
Straiten of Lauriston, Sir Robert Davidson, Provost 
of Aberdeen, James Level, Alexander Stirling, and 
Lesley of Balquhain, with his six sons. 

On Donald's side 900 are said to have fallen, 
among whom were Gilpatrick MacBory of the 
Obeolan family, and Lachlan Macmillan, who, with 
Norman and Torquil Macleod, were the first at the 
head of their men to charge the Lowland host.^ 
Besides these, according to Hugh Macdonald, " two 
or three gentlemen of the name of Munroe were 
slain, together with the son of Macquarry of Ulva, 
and two gentlemen of the name of Cameron."^ The 
brave Hector Roy Maclean of Duart and Irvine of 
Drum fought hand to hand until they both fell 

Trustworthy records of this famous fight there 
are none. Lowland historian and ballad composer, 
as well as Highland seanachie, described what they 
believed must and should have happened. Certain 
main facts, however, we are assured of That both 
sides fought with valour and determination, and 
that Scotland alone was capable of being the nursing 

MacVuirich in Reliquiae Celticte, p. 213. 
2 Hugh Macdonald in Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 301, 


mother of such heroes, may well kindle the pride of 
Lowlander and Highlander alike. Yet the field of 
Harlaw, in proportion to the number engaged there, 
was one of the greatest reverses that ever befell the 
Scots. To say in the face of such a calamitous 
reverse that the Lowland army was victorious at 
Harlaw, as some historians have alleged, is to be 
blind to the most obvious facts. It is admitted on 
all hands that Macdonald's army could not have 
been under 10,000 strong. Of these, according to 
the Lowland estimate, 900 lay dead on the field, 
and granting that as many more lay wounded, 
Donald's force when the fight ceased numbered at 
least 8000 strong, ready to renew the contest with 
the returning day. The Earl of Mar himself lay 
covered with wounds on the field. Five hundred of 
his small force lay dead around him, while the 
remainder of his army lay mostly wounded, and 
unable to renew the fight. These are facts, if the 
Scottish historians are to be believed, but the con- 
clusions they arrive at are not obvious, and cannot 
in reason be justified. That Macdonald of the Isles 
at the head of 8000 clansmen, or even half that 
number, retreated in dismay before a wounded leader 
lying prostrate on the field of battle surrounded by 
a mere handful of men, most of whom were crippled 
with wounds, cannot easily be believed by any 
unprejudiced person. If Donald ever expected 
English help, he now realised that he must do 
without it, and knowing well that all Lowland 
Scotland was arrayed against him, he judged it the 
wisest policy to betake himself to his Island fast- 
nesses. There is every reason to believe that this 
was his main motive in not pursuing his campaign 
further against the Duke of Albany, while at the 


same time the Island Lord must have experienced 
the same difficulty which confronted Montrose, 
Dundee, and Prince Charles, in after times, of 
keeping a Highland army gathered from widely 
scattered districts for any length of tim& together 
in the field. 

The Scottish historians, ignoring all such con- 
siderations, and bhnded by race prejudice, have 
inferred from the retreat that followed what they 
call a drawn battle the defeat of Macdonald at 
Harlaw. Very different accounts of the famous 
engagement are given both by the Highland and 
Irish historians. Hugh Macdonald, MacVurich, and 
many others, refer in no vague terms to the complete 
overthrow of the Lowland army ; while the High- 
land bards, who are never inspired by defeat, 
celebrate the victory of the men of -the Isles in 
their loftiest strains. The Irish Annals are no less 
emphatic, as may be seen, among others, from the 
Annals of Loch Ce : — " A great victory by Mac- 
dhomhaill of Alba over the foreigners of Alba ; and 
MacGilla-Eoin of Macdonald's was slain in the 
counter wounding of that victory."^ 

The battle of Harlaw was fought on the 26th of 
June, 1411, and resulted, as we have seen, in well 
nigh the total annihilation of the Lowland army. 

On the news of the crushing defeat at Harlaw 
reaching the ears of the Regent Albany, he made an 
unusual display of military spirit and activity. He 
resolved without delay on an invasion of the Earldom 
of Ross, and putting himself at the head of a 
sufficiently strong force, he advanced to Dingwall, 
took possession of the castle, and established, with- 
out any opposition, his authority through Ross. 

' Annala of Loch Co, by W. M. Heunessy, 1411. Vol. II., p. 137. 


Donald and his clansmen had retired to their Island 
strongholds. Within his own domains, the Island 
chief was impregnable, for his naval force was 
superior to the whole Scottish fleet at that time. 
He must, however, defend his mainland territories, 
and here the Regent, who determined to crush his 
power and humble the Island Lord, had his ojopor- 
tunity. In the following year, smarting from the 
humiliation and defeat at Harlaw, Albany resumed 
hostilities, proceeded at the head of an army to 
Argyle, and attacked Donald where alone he could 
do so with any chance of success. The records of 
the period are very obscure as to the fortunes and 
reverses alike of the Regent's campaign against the 
hero of Harlaw ; but subsequent events indicate 
very clearly that Donald held his own, and that 
Albany was baffled in the effort to humble him. 

The story of the treaty with the Governor at 
Polgilb, now Lochgilp, where we find Donald coming 
forward humbly, laying down his assumed independ- 
ence, consenting to become a vassal of the Scottish 
crown (which he was already — at least nominally), 
and delivering hostages for his future good behaviour, 
is given on the authority of that unreliable 
choronicler, John of Fordun, and as he is corrobo- 
rated by no authority whatever, but, on the 
contrary, flatly contradicted by subsequent events, 
we refuse to receive it as anything but the purest 
fable. Such a treaty would undoubtedly have 
been looked upon as an event of national import- 
ance, yet the national records are dumb regarding 
it. No contemporary chronicler. Highland or Low- 
land — if we omit John himself— records this 
successful termination of a rebellion so formidable 
as to have shaken the Scottish State to its very 


centre. Both In the Chamberlam and Exchequer 
KoUs we find references made to the campaign of 
Albany against the Lord of the Isles in Argyle, but 
not the remotest reference is made to the alleged 
treaty of Polgilb. What we find is the complaint 
made that the Governor had not been recouped 
for conveying an army to Polgilb against the 
Lord of the Isles, and for his expedition to Ross 
against the Caterans for the tranquillity of the 
realm. ^ If the Lord of the Isles, as John of 
Fordoun would have us believe, had surrendered 
at Polgilb and given hostages, the tone of the 
Scottish Chamberlain would have been more tri- 
umphant, and direct reference would have been 
made to such an important event. Donald well 
knew he could not take j)ossession of the Earldom 
of Ross against all Scotland, and that he had 
resolved to make no further attempt in that 
direction his retreat from Harlaw clearly proves. 
His position in the Isles was too strong to be 
successfully attacked. Why, therefore, should he 
surrender at Polgilb ? The fiction may be placed 
side by side with that other fable of the defeat, 
death, and burial of Donald at Harlaw, where his 
tomb is pointed out to this day ! 

Albany undoubtedly took possession of the Earl- 
dom of Ross, and prevented the Lord of the Isles 
from pushing his claim to that important inheritance ; 
but Donald held undisputed sway to the day of his 
death within his own island principality. In no 
sense can Donald be said to have enjoyed the 
Earldom of Ross, save during those weeks when he 

^ " Neque pro expensis suis factis cum transitu exercitus semel apucl 
Polgilb contra dominuni Insularum, et una alia vice apud Rosse, pro pacifi- 
cacione regni contra Ketheranos."— Exchequer Rolls, vol. IV., p. 213 ; vol, 
IV., p. 239. The Chamberlain Rolls, 14. 


invaded and occupied the district by force of arms. 
He never was, and never could have been de jure, 
Earl of Boss. The Regent carried his point. In 
1415, Euphemia resigned the earldom in favour of 
her grandfather, who thereafter conferred it on his 
son, John Stewart, Earl of Buchan. 

The next time the Lord of the Isles emerges from 
his retirement is in a domestic quarrel with his 
brother, John Mor Tainistear, a quarrel which seems 
to have assumed a formidable appearance from the 
array of neighbouring clans that appear on either 
side. The cause of the quarrel seems to have arisen 
from differences over some lands in Kin tyre, claimed 
by John Mor as his share of his father's patrimony. 
The real instigator was the Abbot Mackinnon, who, 
from his position as a churchman, was a man of con- 
siderable influence in Argyle, and with whose family 
John Mor's own relationship was none of the purest, 
if the historian of Sleat is to be believed. Maclean 
and Macleod of Harris espoused the cause of John 
Mor, while Donald was supported by Macleod 
of Lewis, the Mackintoshes, and other vassals 
of the Isles. The issue was not for a moment 
doubtful. John Mor was defeated, and, passing into 
Galloway, where Donald pursued him, he found his 
way to Ireland, and took refuge in the Antrim glens. 
He and his brother Donald, however, were shortly 
thereafter reconciled.-^ 

The hero of Harlaw now passes finally from the 
public gaze, and, joining one of the religious orders, 
lie finds solace for his declining years in the exercise 
of quiet religious duties. The main features of his 
character have ah-eady passed under review. He 
stands before us, if not the greatest in a long line of 

^ Hugh Macdonald in Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 303. 


distinguished chiefs of his family, a powerful and 
impressive personality, a leader who sustained the 
best traditions of the Clan Cholla, and who kept 
untarnished, in peace and war, in the senate and in 
the field, the name and fame of Macdonald. By far 
the most powerful nobleman in the realm, both from 
the extent of his immense territories and the influ- 
ence he exercised over his many vassals in the Isles 
and on the mainland, Donald also possessed the 
qualities of a statesman. He entered into repeated 
alliances with England. In the year 1389, among 
the allies of that country, consisting of several 
foreign princes and others, we find the name of 
Donald, Lord of the Isles, and commissions at 
difierent times are issued by the English Kings to 
treat with the Island Chief on the footing of an 
independent prince. Some authorities affirm that 
the Lord of the Isles died in France in the year 
1427, but these go on the assumption that Donald 
was Earl of Pvoss. The Earl of Ross who died in 
France in that year, having been killed at the battle 
of Verneuil, was John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, on 
whom the Earldom of Boss was conferred on the 
resignation of Euphemia Lesley, in 1415. We have 
already assumed that the second marriage of John, 
Lord of the Isles, took place about the year 1358, 
and that he, the eldest son of that marriage, men- 
tioned in the treaty of 1369, must have been ten 
years of age when in that year he was given as a 
hostage to David II. The year of Donald's death is 
somewhat uncertain, though 1423 seems approxi- 
mately correct. If this is so, he must have attained 
to the age of 64 when he died. He breathed his 
last at his Castle of Ardthornish in Morven, and was 
buried with befitting pomp and solemnity in the 
tomb of his ancestors at lona. 




Alexander's Accession to the Lordship. — James L returns. — 
Earldom of Ross in the Crown. — James L visits Inverness. — 
Convention. — State of Highlands. — Murder of John Mor. — 
Dispute about Garmoran. — Murder of Alexander MacGorrie. — 
Imprisonment of Lord of Isles. —His Liberation.— His Revolt. 
— Surrender at Holyrood. — Captivity in Tantallon, Inver- 
lochy. — Release of Alexander. — Miu'der of James I. — Alex- 
ander receives the Earldom. — Appointed Justiciar. — Favours 
to Mackintosh. — Death of Alexander, — His Character. 

Alexander of Isla, Donald's eldest son, succeeded 
on his father's death to the dignities and possessions 
of his house. Donald's heroic effort to secure the 
Earldom of Ross as the lawful inheritance of his 
wife did not meet with complete success, and 
although the Sleat historian strives to make it 
appear otherwise, the testimony of all the most 
undoubted authorities is at issue with him. The 
Earldom, which, after Euphemia's resignation, was 
bestowed by the Regent upon his son, the Earl of 
Buchan, fell vacant again in 1424, upon the fall of 
that nobleman at the fateful battle of Verneuil, and 
thereupon reverted to the Crown. Indeed, many 
years were to elapse before the rightful heir of the 
Earldom was to be invested with the position for 
which so much blood had been shed on the memor- 
able field of Harlaw. 

In 1424, an event fraught with much importance 
to general Scottish history took place. On the 


death of Robert, Duke of Albany, in 1420, he was 
succeeded m the Eegency of the Kingdom by his 
son Murdoch. A man of feeble capacity for rule, he 
proved utterly unable to control the turbulent spirits 
of the time, and the government of the country 
gradually subsided into utter anarchy. At last, in 
despair at the political chaos for which his own sons 
were so largely responsible, Murdoch entered, with 
some degree of earnestness, into the negotiations for 
the young King's ransom, with the final result that 
James was released from captivity in England, and 
restored to his ancestral throne. 

It has been alleged by historians, notably by 
Gregory, that one of the earliest acts of James' reign 
was to restore the Earldom of Ross to the heiress of 
line, the mother of Alexander, Lord of the Isles. In 
proof of this, reference is made to what is certainly 
recorded, that in 1426 Alexander, Lord of the Isles 
and Master of Ross, was one of the " assiers" that con- 
demned the Regent, his two sons, and the Earl of 
Lennox to death.^ It is also on record that, in 1427, 
Alexander of Yle, Lord of the Isles, in a charter 
dated at the island of Saint Finlaggan in Yle, and 
also in another charter bestowing a grant of the 
lands of Barra and of Boisdale in South Uist on 
his " alumpnus and armiger," Gilleownan, one of 
the family of Macneill, calls himself Master of Ross.^ 
From these references, it has not unnaturally been 
inferred that the mother of Alexander, " Lady Mary 
of the Yles and of Rosse," had been invested by the 
Crown with her hereditary rights and honours, and 
that the Lord of the Isles had been duly acknow- 
ledged as heir apparent to the Earldom of Ross. 
Yet the historical references in question prove 

^ Balfour's Annala of Scotland. ^ Oj.jg_ pg^^.^ g^j^j.^ 


nothing beyond the fact that Alexander styled 
himself Master of Eoss, and that he received the 
title as a matter of courtesy. Nothing can be 
clearer, as we shall hereafter show, than the tenure 
by the Crown of the powers and privileges of the 
Earldom at a much later date than 1426. Still, 
Lady Mary of the Isles had every right in law 
and equity to the Earldom, so long as she lived, 
with reversion to her heir, and the continued 
assumption of its rights and functions by the 
Crown was rightly considered an illegal usurpation. 
Hence, despite the action of the King, the Lord of 
the Isles and his mother seem to have laid claim, 
at anyrate to the titles of the Earldom, during the 
reign of James I. Whether the more substantial 
interests involved accrued to them, in whole or in 
part, is a question that we purpose considering at a 
later stage. 

Alexander's position on the jury, before which 
so many of the Scottish nobles were arraigned for 
treason in 1426, appears to suggest a certain measure 
of royal favour. It was not long, however, before 
his relations to the Crown underwent a complete 
revolution. The storm-cloud had been gathering 
in the Highlands, was assuming darker and more 
ominous hues, and was soon to burst in fury, bringing 
disaster and desolation in its train. James had 
devoted the first two years of his reign to the 
reduction of the lawlessness which had so widely 
prevailed in the southern regions of his kingdom, 
and already a measure of tranquillity had ensued. 
Now, in 1427, he turned his attention to the High- 
lands, which, during the late corrupt administration, 
had lapsed into a state of virtual independence. The 
bonds of sovereignty had been dissolved, and every 


man did that which was good in his own eyes. 
James I. was undoubtedly one of the ablest states- 
men that ever occupied the throne of Scotland. Tlie 
main lines of his policy, which he handed on to his 
successor, were absolutely indispensable for the 
general welfare of the realm. The keynote of that 
policy was to curb the dangerous and increasing 
power of the nobility, and it is evident that the 
vindication of the sovereign authority as supreme in 
the State was, in those days, the only guarantee for 
the maintenance of law, order, and individual liberty 
among all classes of the people. The struggle of the 
Crown with those great nobles, who in their 
own districts exercised power that was well nigh 
unlimited, is the explanation of much of the civil 
discord that prevailed in Scotland during the 
fifteenth century. While the policy of James I. 
was thus in its main design well conceived, yet it 
is plain that, in applying his remedies to the 
diseases of the body politic, he displayed a harshness, 
as well as impatience, which sometimes defeated the 
ends he had in view, and proved, eventually, the 
cause of his tragic fate. Hence it was that his 
palliatives, instead of soothing at all times the 
unhealthy social organism, sometimes produced an 
unwholesome and dangerous irritation. The effects 
of a long period of misrule were not to be cured in a 
day. The Herculean task of cleansing the political 
Augean stables was one that demanded the exercise 
of patience as well as energy. 

After the battle of Harlaw, the Castle of Inver- 
ness, which, from its position, lay peculiarly exposed 
to hostile operations, had been fortified and recon- 
structed on a larger scale than before under the 
supervision of the Earl of Mar. In 1427 it played 


an important part in the royal policy of Reform. 
In this the third year of his reign, James marched 
to Inverness at the head of a formidable army, and 
accompanied by the leading Lowland barons. There 
he convened a Parliament, and summoned the Crown 
vassals and others to be present. The citation met 
with a large response. From the far north came 
Angus Dubh Mackay, who in 1411 unsuccessfully 
opposed Donald of the Isles at Dingwall, but who 
was the most powerful chief in the Celtic region of 
Caithness, and a leader of 4000 men. Kenneth 
Mor Mackenzie, a leader of 2000 men, with his son-in- 
law, John Koss, WilHam Leslie, Angus de Moravia, 
and Matheson, leaders of 2000 men, likewise 
responded to the call. From Argyllshire came John 
Macarthur of the family of Campbell, the leader of 
1000 men, and James Campbell, to the place of 
rendezvous. The principal leaders of the Clan 
Donald, Alexander Lord of the Isles, and Alexander 
MacGorrie of Garmoran, obedient to the King's 
citation,^ came also to this convention, which was 
destined to leave its mark upon the general history 
of the Highlands, but esi^ecially upon the annals of 
the Family of the Isles. 

There is much obscurity, it is needless to say, 
resting upon the history of these years, and the 
influences that determined the conduct of the King 
in the events that followed the Parliament of Inver- 
ness are far from being easy to gauge. Some clues, 
however, we do possess which seem to lead us to a 
certain extent through the labyrinth of confusion, 
anarchy, and treachery which are characteristic of 
the time, and explain the political convulsion into 
which the Western Highlands were plunged. The 

'■ Fordun. 


first and most important of the causes productive of 
this state of matters was the murder of John Mor 
Tainistear, the founder of the family of Dunnyveg 
and the Glens, whom even Buchanan, that sweeping 
denunciator of the Highland Chiefs, speaks of as a 
man illustrious among his own countrymen.^ John 
Mor's death was the tragic culmination of a series of 
intrigues promoted by the courtiers of King James, 
and apparently winked at by royalty itself The 
hungry Scottish barons who shaped "the whisper of 
the throne " were jealous, many of them, of the 
power and independence of the Lords of the Isles, 
and, instigated by their counsels, James resolved to 
curb and break the power of Alexander, who doubt- 
less by this time was manifesting a very natural 
impatience at his mother's prolonged exclusion from 
the earldom of Boss. He further resolved to take 
John Mor into his confidence, with the view of 
investing him with the territories of which he 
decided to deprive the Lord of the Isles, ostensibly 
on the ground that John, being Alexander's uncle, 
was more nearly akin, by blood, to the Crown.^ The 
Lord of Dunnyveg did not entertain the proposals 
favourably, and an individual of the name of James 
Campbell is said to have received a commission from 
the King to arrest him under cover of a friendly 
interview. Whatever the powers granted under 
this commission, whether Campbell received instruc- 
tions to perpetrate the bloody deed that followed 
or not, certain is it that John Mor was the victim 
of the blackest and most abominable treachery. He 
received a message from the King's delegate to meet 
him in peaceful guise at Ard Dubh point in Isla, for 
the purpose of communicating the royal pleasure. 

^ Rerum Scoticorum Historia, Liber X. cap. XXX. 
'^ Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis. 


John Mor came to the place of meeting attended by 
a slender retinue, and in the course of the interview- 
was attacked, overpowered, and slain. ^ It was a 
shameful and most villainous deed, and it is to be 
feared that the King's hands were not altogether 
innocent of the blood that had been shed. Sub- 
sequent events do not clear him of the suspicion 
of treacherous conduct, and there is strong reason 
to believe that, while the King's orders were vague 
and undefined, his commissioner only too well 
understood the spirit and purpose of his instruc- 
tions. In Campbell he found a willing instrument 
ready to his hand, and it is to be noted that now 
for the first time there fell athwart the path of 
the Family of the Isles the shadow of that ill- 
omened house which was to be its evil genius in 
time to come. 

The murder of the Lord of Dunnyveg caused 
deep resentment among many powerful Scottish 
families, and the King's policy was not so generally 
popular that he could afibrd to incur the odium 
which it undoubtedly entailed. Especially through- 
out the Highlands were feelings of the deepest 
resentment, accompanied by a desire for vengeance, 
aroused, and the confusions of the time became 
worse confounded by the spirit of antagonism to the 
throne, which the dark suspicions that fell upon the 
King, evoked. The King protested that he had not 
planned the murder, and had the assassin tried for 
his life, while Campbell continued to assert that, 
though not possessed of written instructions, he had 
the royal authority for what took place. These 
were among the leading circumstances which, on 
account of the turmoil they created in the High- 

1 Hugh Macdonald's MS. Balfour's Annals, Vol, I,, p. 157, 


lands, led to James' march to Inverness, and his 
summoning a convention of the Highland chiefs. 

This, however, was not all. John Macarthur, 
another scion of the House of Campbell, had taken 
the opportunity afforded by the unsettled condition 
of the country to advance a claim to a portion of 
the lands of Garmoran and the North Isles. His 
pretensions to these territories were based upon 
a charter by Christina, daughter of Allan MacRuari, 
to Arthur, son of Sir Arthur Campbell, Knight, 
early in the fourteenth century.^ Christina, 
being her father's heir, was acting within her 
legal rights in this disposition of the lands in 
question ; but what her reasons were for putting 
them past her brother Roderick, who, though not 
feudally legitimate, she made her heir for the rest 
of her property, is a question which, at this time of 
day, it is impossible to answer. Whatever validity 
such an instrument may have possessed, whether it 
received the necessary royal confirmation or not, it 
is clear that several conveyances of the lands in 
question had taken place since the days of Christina, 
and that any claim founded upon her charter must 
have been of the most shadowy and baseless descrip- 
tion. The occupier of Garmoran in 1427 was 
Alexander MacGorrie, according to Skene, and 
Gregory, the son, but more probably the grandson, 
of Godfrey, son of John of Isla.^ The Clan Gorrie 
had, apparently, still the ascendancy over the 
progeny of Reginald, and, whether by right or by 

^ Arthuro Campbell filio Domini Arthuris militis de terra de Muddeward 
Ariseg et Morderer et iusulis de Egg et Rumrae et pertenari. 

^ According to Buchanan and others, his surname was MacReury, the 
patronymic of Amy, John of Isla's first wife. According to Fordun, he was 
MacGorrie, this latter palrouymic having been used for several generations as a 
surname by Godfrey's descendants. There is no Alexander, son of Godfrey, in 
any of the genealogies. 


the Strong hand, were in possession of Garmoran and 
the Castle of EUantirrim, which had been seized by 
Godfrey in 1389. Alexander, the representative of 
the family in the year of the Inverness Convention, 
was a leader of 2000 men, and would be very 
unlikely tamely to submit to any aggressive action 
which the Macarthur claimant might be disposed to 
take. Attempts at possession on the one hand and 
vigorous resistance on the other would, during the 
late discredited administration, lead to a state of 
continued disorder in the regions of North Argyll. 
All this must have been aggravated by the feud which 
undoubtedly existed between the Clan Ranald and 
the Clan Godfrey as to the occupancy of the vast 
region conferred upon and confirmed to Reginald 
and his descendants in 1373. In view of the fore- 
going circumstances, of which the scant annals of the 
time give us but intermittent glimpses, there were 
rich possibilities of feud and bloodshed, and it is 
certain that the social system of the Highlands 
presented a scene of wild and chronic dispeace 
demanding the serious attention of the Crown. 

The events that took place in connection with the 
King's visit to Inverness cannot very well be esti- 
mated apart from more complete information than is 
at the historian's disposal. Yet, so far as we can see, 
the proceedings that were conducted under the royal 
authority are incapable of justification upon any code 
of ethics. They bring out the character of James I. in 
an aspect of meanness and deceit unbecoming in any 
one, but particularly so in a King, and leave a dark 
and ineffaceable stain upon the history of his reign. 
These Highland chiefs came as they were summoned 
to a free and open convention of the nobles of the 
north, trusting to the faith and honour of his 



Majesty. As the event shows, the confidence was 
misplaced. On their arrival at Inverness, they were 
all immediately apprehended. Some were led to 
prison, each being immured in a separate apartment, 
while others became the victims of a judicial butchery 
which has few parallels in Scottish history. The 
King is said to have chuckled at the success of his 
most unkingly manoeuvre, and to have given vent to 
his satisfaction in a Latin couplet ex tempore, which 
Scott thus freely translates : — 

" To donjon tower let the rude troop be driven, 
For death they merit by the cross of heaven." ^ 

James Campbell justly expiated his crime, but the 
slaughter of Alexander MacGorrie of Garmoran,^ along 
with others, seems, in the absence of any evidence of 
guilt, and without the vestige oi a trial, a monstrous 
exercise of royal power. 

The foregoing incidents must have powerfully 
affected the relations of the Lord of the Isles to the 
Crown. The murder of his uncle, John Mor, Lord 
of Dunnyveg, and of his cousin, Alexander of Gar- 
moran, must have created the deepest indignation in 
the breast of the Island Lord, and would have aggra- 
vated his previous discontent and displeasure at his 
own continued deprivation of the Earldom of Ross. 
History does not clearly record his share in the 
troublous times prior to the convention of Inverness ; 
but, judging from Alexander's character and subse- 
quent conduct, it is safe to say that his attitude 
would not have been passive. Little is definitely 
known beyond the fact that the Lord of the Isles 

^ This couplet, according to Forduu, ran : - 

" Ad turrem forteni ducamus caute cohortem 
Per Christi sortem meruerunt hi quia mortem," 
^ Balfour's Annals of Scotland. 


and his mother, the titular Countess of Ross, were 
among the Highland potentates or, as Burton would 
style them, the " beasts of prey," whom the King 
entrapped and incarcerated at Inverness. 

One of the Scottish chroniclers tells us that 
Alexander, Lord of the Isles, was the " fomentor 
and foster father" of the northern rebellion, while 
"Angus Duffe, Kenneth Moire, John Robe, Alexander 
Mackmurkine, and Alexander Macrorey," are char- 
acterised as " his gray hondes,"^ Whether the 
relation of Alexander of Isla to the Highland 
chiefs whose names are quoted was of a nature 
to justify the canine simile, there is not sufficient 
evidence to show ; but it is clear that the Royal 
policy towards the Highlands at this juncture was 
not of a nature to mitigate the widespread disorder 
that had reigned for so long a period. 

James I. is not without his defenders in the 
bloody and treacherous policy of 1427. Burton, 
whose calmness at once deserts him when he treads 
the heather, justifies the King in the somewhat 
savage remark " that there was no more notion of 
keeping faith with the Irishry, whether of Ireland 
or Scotland, than with the beast of prey lured to its 
trap." A sentiment of this nature cannot be seri- 
ously regarded save as a melancholy instance 
of Lowland prejudice and racial rancour. The 
perusal of such I'emarks is irritating to the Celtic 
mind, but as an illustration of the falsehood of 
extremes we can afford to pass them by. 

The Lord of the Isles was not detained in 
custody at this time for more than a couple of 
months. He had to accompany the King from 
Inverness to Perth, where, on the 1st March, 1427, 

^ 3alfour's Annals of Scotland, vol. L, p. 157. 


in presence of the whole estates of the realm, he is 
said to have received a royal admonition as regards 
his past delinquencies, but on promise of amendment 
was restored to favour and set at liberty. It is 
also said that his mother was retained as a hostage 
for his loyalty in the island of Inchcolm, in the 
Firth of Forth.^ 

It was not to be expected that, after the extra- 
ordinary events of 1427, matters were to settle 
down in the Highlands, as if neither cruelty nor 
treachery had been enacted in the name of justice. 
The King found that his methods of dealing with 
a proud and independent people were not conducive 
to the promotion of peace, and the embers of dis- 
affection which he had sought to remove were 
fanned into the hot flame of rebellion. It was 
hardly to be expected also that the Lord of the 
Isles should immediately forget the treatment to 
which he himself had been subjected, or the ruthless 
slaughter of his relatives, which had recently taken 
place. Events proved that his countrymen and 
vassals sympathised with him. No sooner did he 
return to his island territories than the standard 
of revolt was at once unfurled. Collecting 10,000 
men from the Isles and from the earldom of Hoss, 
he invaded the mainland of Scotland in 1429. The 
district of Lochaber, the country of Alastair Carrach, 
seems to have been the headquarters of the Lords 
of the Isles — at any rate of Alexander and his 
successor — when engaged in warlike operations 
on the mainland. With Lochaber as the basis 
of his movements, Alexander marched to Inver- 
ness — a town which on all such occasions received 
the unwelcome attentions of the fierce warriors from 

^ Balfour's Annala of Scotland, pp. 157-8. 


the West. Alexander, after the manner of his 
father, consigned Inverness to the flames, wasted 
the crown lands in its neighbourhood, and thus 
avenged, to some extent, the indignity he had 
suffered, and the oppressive deeds that had been 
perpetrated two years previously within its walls.-^ 

The Lord of the Isles found, however, that he 
had measured himself against a King who, whatever 
had been the blunders and faults of his administra- 
tion, was prompt and vigorous in action as he was 
on many occasions wise and prudent in counsel. 
Thus it was that, having failed to storm the Castle 
of Inverness, and having retired into Lochaber, 
Alexander soon found himself pursued by the 
King's army. The circumstances were of a nature 
to render defeat inevitable, Even before retiring 
from the siege of Inverness it was found that the 
rapid approach of the royal army was followed by 
disaffection among the Camerons and Mackintoshes, 
the two most powerful vassals of the Isles. In 
Lochaber the situation became desperate when the 
disaffected clans deserted and ranged themselves 
under the royal standard. After this the King's 
vigorous attack was impossible to resist successfully, 
and the Lord of the Isles was constrained to sue 
for peace. The King insisted on an unconditional 
surrender, but Alexander was not, at the outset, 
disposed to accede to terms so extreme. 

The character and sequence of the events that 
followed are far from clear. Aecording to Buchanan,^ 
Alexander retired to the Isles, and meditated flight 
to the north of Ireland, where Donald Balloch, son 

^ Testimony to this is borne by the Exchequer Rolls, vol. IV., p. 416, as 
follows : — " pro combustione clicti burgi per Dooiiuum lusularuni reoellem 
domini regis £58 Ss." 

' Lib, X., 32. Rerum Scoticarum Historia. 


of John Mor Tainistear, and now head of the 
Family of Dunnyveg, possessed extensive sway 
and influence. While there is nothing inherently 
improbable in this account, it does not seem to fit in 
with the facts that are generally accepted. It is 
difficult to see how, if Alexander had retired to the 
Isles, the ignominy that followed need have occurred. 
The pursuit by the King's troops became so hot that 
Alexander was driven south, step by step, to the 
very headquarters of the enemy's power. The 
sequel, as told in works of history, was a humiliating 
episode. The proud representative of the Kings of 
Innse-Gall must have been in terrible straits, indeed, 
ere he placed himself in a position not only abject 
but grotesque. On Easter Sunday the King and 
his Court were assembled in the Church at Holy- 
rood to celebrate the sacred festival. Before the 
high altar, it is said that Alexander presented 
himself in attire so scanty that the congregation 
was deeply impressed. The authorities are so con- 
flicting as to be untrustworthy. According to one 
writer he appeared in a white shirt and drawers/ 
according to another he came with a rope about 
his neck.^ We are inclined to think that 
Alexander, even in the hour of his extremity, 
would still have worn the garb of his country, a 
garb unfamiliar to the minions of the Court, and 
hence, quite possibly, the tradition may have 
obtained currency that he appeared before the King 
in his shirt. On bended knee, holding his bonnet in 
one hand and the point of his sword in the other, 
he made his submission. On the intercession of 
the Queen, the proffered sword was accepted, and 
Alexander's life was spared, but he was committed 

^ Forduu. 2 Balfour's Auuuk of Scotland, pp. 147-8. 


a prisoner to Tantallon Castle, under the custody of 
William Douglas, Earl of Angus, His mother, who 
was blamed for instigating him to rebellion, was 
still a jorisoner at Inchcolm. 

The Clan Donald bitterly resented the humili- 
ation to which the Lord of the Isles was now, 
a second time and in aggravated form, subjected. 
It was resolved by the foremost leaders of 
the Clan to strike a blow for honour and for 
vengeance. The whole strength of the Clan was 
mustered under Donald Balloch, Lord of Dunnyveg, 
who, though still a youth,^ was a redoubtable 
champion, the most distinguished warrior of his 
race. His career was destined to be stormy, but 
those writers who express horror at the violence of 
some of his acts should have remembered that, 
according to the code of honour of his day, the 
filial duty devolved upon him of wreaking vengeance 
upon the Scottish State, which he rightly held 
accountable for the murder of his father by the 
hand of treacherous hirelings. 

The Boyal army lay encamped in Lochaber, under 
the leadership of the Earls of Mar and Caithness. 
These noblemen were the King's lieutenants in that 
region, whose function it was to extinguish any 
sparks of disaffection to the Crown that might still 
be lingering in the north. It was once more the 
destiny of Mar to meet the Clan Donald in deadly 
combat, and another Donald, nephew to him whose 
prowess he felt at Harlaw, was now to prove himself 
a foeman worthy of his steel. It is strange that 
Mar should have under-estimated the warlike 
qualities of his opponents ; though it is possible 
enough that the recent discomfiture of the men of 
the Isles in Lochaber may have bred undue con- 

^ Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 309. 


fidence. Relying on the superior armour and 
discipline of his host, he sat calmly in his tent 
playing cards with Mackintosh, who still acted the 
part of a disloyal vassal.^ 

Meanwhile, the fighting men of the Clan Donald, 
under their brave leader, were drawing nigh. From 
their imprisoned chief in Tantallon Castle a message 
had come to all faithful friends and clansmen to face 
the foe bravely, whatever the consequences might be 
to himself, and now, burning with the memory of 
wrongs sustained, and inspired by devotion to the 
head of their house, they longed to meet the enemy in 
the field. From far and near, wherever the Lord of the 
Isles held sway, the loyal vassals and their followers 
mustered under the ancient banner. The fiery cross 
flew from glen to glen, from isle to isle, nor did it 
fly in vain. The lines of Sir Walter Scott — though 
composed to the air of a Cameron piobroch, whose 
Donald Dubh was not Donald Balloch, but the chief 
of the Clan Cameron— are so spirited and rousing 
that they well be quoted here. Sir Walter's 
"Piobroch of Donuil Dubh" was undoubtedly intended 
to glorify Donald Balloch and his host : — 

*' Piobroch of Donald Dhii, 
Piobroch of D6nuil, 
Wake thy wild voice auew, 
Summon Clan Coniiil. 
Come aAvay, come away, 
Hark to the summons ! 
Come in your war array, 
Gentles and commons. 

" Come from deep glen 
And from mountain so rocky, 
The war pipe and peimon 
Are at Inverlochy. 

^ Hugh Macdonald's MS. - 


Come every hill plaid and 
True heart that wears one, 
Come every steel blade and 
Strong hand that bears one." 

The Maclans of Ardnamurchan, MacAllans of 
Moydert, the followers of Ranald Bane, brother of 
Donald Balloch — these, with the rest of the Clan 
Donald, the Macleans, MacDuffies, and Macgees, 
sailed in their galleys to Inverskippnish, two miles 
distant from the E-oyal forces at Inverlochy. 

The scene of the ensuing conflict was the country 
of Alastair Carrach, uncle to the Lord of the Isles, 
who, by the disposition of his father, had receiv^ed 
Lochaber as his inheritance. It is said that about 
this time there was a proposal on the part of the 
Crown to deprive the Macdonalds of their rights in 
Lochaber and to bestow the same upon the Earl of 
Mar,^ but there seems no evidence to shew that such 
a transference ever took place. If, however, Alastair 
Carrach considered his patrimony to be in danger, 
his interest in the approaching battle must have 
been much intensified. With two hundred and 
twenty archers he marched to the aid of Donald 
Balloch's forces, and took up his position on the hills 
above Inverlochy. 

The Earl of Mar found that a far more serious 
game than he had been playing was now on hand, 
and that the men of the Isles, of whose approach 
he was warned, were rapidly bearing down upon 
his encampment. At last the critical moment 
arrived when the Highland host came into conflict 
with their Southern foes. The issue was not long 
doubtful. The wild onset of the Islesmen, who 
carried death upon the blades of their claymores 

^ Hugh Macdonald's MS. 


and Lochaber axes, plunged the Earl's army into 
confusion, while the galling fire of Alastair Carrach's 
archers, whose successive volleys from the heights 
seemed to darken the air, still further carried des- 
truction into the ranks of the enemy. The result 
was the complete discomfiture and utter rout of the 
King's army, accompanied by great slaughter. The 
Earl of Caithness, sixteen of his personal retinue, 
a number of Lowland knights and barons, with 
hundreds of the rank and file were left dead upon 
the field. The Earl of Mar was wounded in the 
thigh by an arrow, and, accompanied by one atten- 
dant, had to take refuge in the hills. Hugh 
Macdonald, the historian of Sleat, narrates certain 
adventures which befell the Earl of Mar subsequent 
to his reverse at Inverlochy. In his wanderings 
among the mountains, during this not least interest- 
ing episode in his eventful career, he and his servant 
are said to have fallen in with women who were 
tending cattle. Having obtained from these a little 
barley meal, the wanderers mixed it with water in 
the heel of the Earl's shoe — no other vessel being 
available — and the pangs of hunger were, for the 
time being, appeased. Despite the simplicity of the 
meal and the strange utensil in which it was pre- 
pared, to the Earl it was the sweetest morsel he 
ever tasted, while in remembrance of the occasion he 
is said to have composed the Gaelic stanza : — 

" 'S maith an cocaire 'n t-acras 
'S mairg a ni tailceas air a' bhiadh 
Fuarag eorn a sail mo bhroige 
Biadh a b' fhearr a fhuair mi riamh.''^ 

^ The following is a free translation : — ■ 

" The paugs of hunger are a skilful cook, 
Woe to the man who scorns the humblest brew, 
The sweetest fare of wliich I ere partook 
Was barley meal and water in my shoe." 


But the Earl's adventures were not quite over. 
Fleeing through Badenoch in disguise, and hard 
pressed by the pursuers, he was sheltered in a hut 
among the hills by an Irishman named O'Birrin, and 
hospitably though rudely entertained. The Earl 
told his host, who was ignorant of the stranger's 
rank, that if he ever was in need he was to go to 
Kildrummie Castle, and there ask for Alexander 
Stewart, when he would hear something to his 
advantage. In the course of time, O'Birrin arrived 
at the Castle, and found, to his great astonishment, 
that it was the life of the Earl of Mar which he had, 
in all probability, saved. The Earl desired him to 
bring his wife and son to Kildrummie, but this the 
Irishman declined to do, as his wife was too old to 
leave her native district. After some days, O'Birrin 
was sent on his way rejoicing in 60 milch cows, and 
with an invitation to his son to come and settle at 
Kildrummie. The son came and acquired a freehold 
from the Earl, which was occupied by his descen- 
dants for many generations.^ Such stories as these 
well illustrate the conditions of life in those old 
unsettled times. The latter in particular, showing 
as it does a generous appreciation of bygone kind- 
ness, not too common in the world, casts a pleasing 
light upon the character of Mar, and happily relieves 
a story of strife and vengeance. 

After the battle of Inverlochy, the first but not 
the last fought by the Clan Donald in that region, 
Donald Balloch, having routed the chivalry of Scot- 
land, and ravaged the country of the Camerons and 
Mackintoshes in revenge for their desertion of the 
Lord of the Isles in the unfortunate hostilities in 
Lochaber, returned with much booty to the Isles, 

^ Hugh Macdonald's MS. 


and thence took ship to his Irish territories. The 
feelings of the defeated Camerons were poetically 
immortalised in the well-known piobroch of Donald 
Dubh, to which reference has already been made. 
The words^ to which the music is wedded lament 
the discomfiture of the Clan Chattan and Clan 
Cameron, and both words and music abound in 
mournful cadences and wailing repetitions. The 
following lines, not a translation but an enlarge- 
ment, so to speak, of the original words of the 
piobroch, are supposed to convey the sense of defeat 
and humiliation on the part of Alexander of Isla's 
disloyal vassals : — 

Piobroch of Donald Dubh, 
Piobroch of D6iiuil, 
Sad are thy notes and few, 
Piobroch of D6nui]. 
Proud is Clan Donald's note, 
Gaily their banners float 
O'er castle, tower, and moat 
At Inverlochy. 

Routed we are to-day, 
Spearman and bowman, 
Victory in the fray 
Gone to the foeman ; 
Lost many a hero's life, 
Sad many a widowed wife, 
Triumph in battle's strife 
Eests with Clan D6nuil. 

Mighty Clan Chattan's fled, 
Famous in story, 
Gone from the battle red. 
Vanquished and gory. 
Where is Clan Vurich's host 1 
Great is Clan Donald's boast, 
Long shall the field we've lost 
Heighten their glory. 

* The version here referred to is the original Gaelic by some unknowa 


The news of the revolt and of the battle of 
Inverlochy filled King James with wrath and con- 
sternation, believing, as he did, that the turbulence 
of the Highland chiefs had been effectually quelled 
at Inverness and Lochaber. He accordingly took 
measures to put down the disturbers of the peace 
with a strong hand. He got Parliament to impose 
a land tax to defray the expenses of the new 
campaign which lie felt it necessary to undertake 
against the Highlanders. He soon made his 
appearance at Dunstaffnage Castle, in the neigh- 
bourhood of Oban, with the view of proceeding to 
the Isles and visiting with condign punishment 
Donald Balloch and his coadjutors. The state- 
ments of Scottish historians regarding the events 
that followed are exceedingly unreliable and to be 
received with great caution. It is averred that 
all those who had taken part in the insurrection, 
except Donald Balloch, came to James at Dun- 
staffnage and made their submission, while 300 of 
them were hanged or beheaded, and that, as the 
conclusion of the whole matter, the head of the 
Lord of Dunnyveg was sent from Ireland as a 
present from Odo, Prince of Connaught, to the 
King/ The amount of truth in this version of 
what took place may be tested by the accuracy of 
the reference to the arch offender, Donald Balloch 
himself Long ere the King's arrival at Dunstaff- 
nage the hero of Inverlochy was safe beyond 
pursuit. Through his mother, Marjory Bisset, 
he had inherited the territory of the Glens in 
Antrim, a region to this day associated with the 
family of Dunnyveg, and there he found a secure 
retreat from the anger of the Scottish King. The 

^ Chronicle of the Earls of Ross, pp. 11-12. 


Scottish Court, however, was misled into the belief 
that Donald Balloch was no more. Word was sent 
by James to Hugh Buy O'Neill, an Irish chief of 
Ulster, with whom he had been for some time previ- 
ous associated in a friendly league against England, 
with the request that he should capture Donald 
Balloch and send him to Scotland alive or dead. 
O'Neill was desirous of retaining the King's friend- 
ship, while he was reluctant to take hostile action 
against the powerful Lord of Antrim. With a 
humour, grimmer and more ghastly than is usually 
met with in the Emerald Isle, a human head, dis- 
severed from the body, was somehow got hold of, and 
sent to James as the head of Donald Balloch. The 
deception served its purpose, for it was the decided 
belief for many a day among the Scottish nobles, 
and Scottish historians have gravely placed it on 
record, that the Lord of Dunnyveg and the Glens 
had actually been put to death, and the Scottish 
King laid the flattering unction to his soul that the 
most formidable warrior of the Clan Donald must 
now, perforce, cease from troubling. That Donald 
Balloch did not lose his head through the agency of 
O'Neill, but that he lost his heart irretrievably 
through O'Neill's daughter, is abundantly attested 
by a matrimonial alliance which was soon afterwards 
cemented between the families. Lowland historians, 
as already stated, and among the rest Buchanan,^ 
were taken in by the pretended decapitation ; but 
many years after the first two Jameses had been 
gathered to their fathers, Donald Balloch was once 
more making a mighty stir on the stormy scene of 
Scottish civil war. 

The battle of Inverlochy was fought in the early 
weeks of 1431, by which time the Lord of the Isles 

1 Liber X., chap. 36. 


had been pining a prisoner in Tantallon Castle for a 
space of well-nigh three years. But now the time 
was rapidly approaching when he was to be set at 
liberty. At first sight it seems somewhat remark- 
able that a King who had proved himself so inexor- 
able to offenders against his authority should have 
displayed such leniency to the Lord of the Isles, 
when others had been made to endure the last 
penalty of the law. His conduct in this particular 
instance towards a subject who had been more than 
once guilty of rebellion, was not characteristic of 
his policy or methods. It is hardly to be accounted 
for by Alexander's kinship to the throne, as the 
blood of many of the King's relatives had already 
flowed upon the scaflbld. The reasons, however, 
may not be far to seek It is probable that hj this 
time the King had discovered the impolicy of harsh 
measures, and that at a time when murmurs of dis- 
content were beginning to be heard in other quarters, 
the more prudent course was to put an end, if 
possible, to the quarrel with the Lord of the Isles. 
The supposed death of Donald Balloch had also, to 
the King's fancy, removed the most formidable dis- 
turber of the peace, and a favourable opportunity 
alone was awanting to open the gates of Tantallon 
Castle and set the prisoner free. Such an oppor- 
tunity soon arose. In October, 1431, the heir to the 
Scottish Crown — afterwards James 11. — was born, 
and it is said that during the public rejoicing con- 
nected with this auspicious event, an amnesty was 
granted to a number of political delinquents, and, 
among others, to Alexander, Lord of the Isles, who 
was restored to his freedom, dignities, and posses- 


^ MS. History of the Mackintoshes, 


If the early years of Alexander's public life were 
crowded with troublous events, after 1431 his career 
was peaceful and prosperous, his life being spent in 
the enjoyment of the honours, and the discharge of 
the duties of his high position. It has been the 
prevailing belief among historians that at the date 
of Alexander's liberation from Tantallon, he not 
only received restitution of his ancestral rights as 
Lord of the Isles, but likewise full investiture of the 
Earldom of Ross. Of this latter, however, there 
does not seem to be anything like adequate or 
satisfactory proof The evidence seems all the 
other way. It is unquestionable that the functions 
of the Earldom of Hoss lay in the Crown as late as 
1430. No doubt at that time Alexander, Lord of 
the Isles, lay a prisoner at Tantallon, which might 
be adduced as a reason for the Crown possessing 
the Earldom, seeing that the possessions and 
dignities of the family had been forfeited. The 
contrary will appear from consideration of the 
following facts : — On the 11th April, 1430, there 
was an enquiry made at Nairn, in presence of 
Donald, Thane of Cawdor, regarding the tenure 
of the lands of Kilravock and Easter Geddes, an 
enquiry rendered necessary by the destruction of 
the ancient writs in the burning of Elgin Cathedral 
in 1390. In the record of that inquisition, it is 
stated with the utmost clearness, that the lands in 
question were held from the Crown in ward for the 
Earl of Boss, who had not received the Crown 
confirmation as such since the death of the last 
Earl of Ross in France six years previously.-^ Still 
stronger testimony to the same effect is borne by a 
Crown charter of James I. to Donald, Thane of 

' The Family of Rose of Kilravock, pp. 127-128. 


Cawdor, on 4th September, 1430, which opens'- 
with the words, " James, by the grace of God King 
of Scots and Earl of Koss."^ Nor is this all. It 
appears from the evidence of contemporary records 
from 1431 down to 1435 that payments of £10, 
£24, and £34 were made out of the Koyal Treasury 
to the Countess of Ross as " Dowager Lady of the 
Isles." Two inferences may be drawn from these 
references without straining the probabilities of the 
case. In the first place, it may reasonably be sup- 
posed that the King, who drew the revenues of the 
Earldom, acknowledged by these payments a certain 
moral right to them on the part of the Lady of the 
Isles, and, in the second place, her designation in 
these accounts, not as Countess of Ross, but as 
Dowager Lady of the Isles, seems an undoubted 
proof that, as late as 1435, James continued to 
withhold his formal recognition of her title to the 

There is, in fact, the best reason to believe that 
the Lord of the Isles did not enter into possession of 
the Earldom of Hoss during the life-time of James 
I., and however good and equitable his claim to the 
privileges of that high position, no effective right 
could accrue to him without the acknowledgment of 
the supreme fountain of property, as well as honour, 
in the realm. James I. was assassinated on the 21st 
February, 1437, and the first charter proceeding 
from Alexander, in his capacity as Earl of Ross, is 
dated September of the same year. This seems 
to suggest that in the interval the Regents acting 
for the young King had given the Lord of the Isles 

^ Jacobus Die gratia rex Scotorum ac Comes Rossiiv;. — The Thaues of 
Cawdor, p. 11. 

^ Exchequer Rolls, vol. IV., 541. 



Investiture of the Earldom, which the late King so 
long continued to withhold. During the half-dozen 
years that intervened between Alexander's restora- 
tion and the death of James, the chronicles of the 
age have little to say about the Lord of the Isles, 
and although we may naturally suppose that he 
would have occupied an attitude of opposition to 
the Court, it is evident that he stood apart from 
the conspiracy by which the dark deed of murder 
was plotted and perpetrated. A period of quiet 
had come to Alexander after the tempestuous 
episodes of his earlier years, and down to the 
close of his life he and his vassals enjoyed the 
happiness of the nation whose annals are dull. 

James II, was only a child of six at his father's 
death. Either by the will of the late King, or by 
the ordinance of a Parliament called at Edinburgh 
the year after his death, two Kegents, Sir William 
Crichton and Sir Alexander Livingstone of Cal- 
lendar, were given the supreme power in the State, 
and they, in the exercise of their functions, appointed 
Archibald Earl of Douglas Lieutenant-General of 
Scotland. It is probable that the friendship between 
the Lord of the Isles and the Douglas family, which 
afterwards assumed a form dangerous to the State, 
led to the advancement of Alexander to the high 
position which he occupied, not only as Earl of Boss^ 
but as Wardf n, or Justiciar, or High Sheriff of the 
whole region north of the Forth, an office which we 
find him exercising in 1438, the year following the 
death of James I.^ The tenure of an office so 
important implied the confidence of the Crown, and 
we find in 1438, and on occasions afterwards, that 
John Bullok, Bishop of Boss, was Alexander's 

^ Vide Charter in Family of Innee. 


delegate to the Council of Regency, when he 
wished to consult the supreme authority as to his 
judicial duties in the North, ^ During the long 
minority of James II., the name of Alexander of 
Isla appears frequently in the records of the north, 
and there is every reason to believe that the con- 
fidence reposed by the State in his distinguished 
abilities and force of character was amply justified 
in the performance of his judicial duties. The office 
of Justiciar gave him command of the town of 
Inverness, where many of his Courts were held, 
and there is something surely of the irony of history 
in contemplating the turbulent rebel, the fierce 
incendiary of 1427, now appearing in the Capital of 
the Highlands representing in his own person the 
supreme majesty of the law. It may well be 
believed that the feelings of the Invernessians would 
be of a somewhat mingled nature on Alexander's 
appearance amongst them in this unwonted guise. 
There is no evidence, however, that the Earl of Ross 
exercised the duties of his office in any unjust or 
oppressive manner. An exception to this may 
possibly be the case of Donald Dubh, the Chief of 
the Clan Cameron. It will be remembered that 
this chief and his clan, though vassals of the Lord 
of the Isles, treacherously deserted him during the 
hostilities of 1427, and went over to the King's side. 
This desertion by the Clan Cameron, as well as by 
the Clan Chattan, proved disastrous to Alexander, 
and was the direct cause of his discomfiture and 
humiliating surrender. The Lord of the Isles would 
have been more than human did the memory of his 
betrayal not rankle in his breast. According to the 

^ Book of Douglas, vol. I., p. 440 ; Exchequer Rolls, vol, V., p. 33. 


code of honour of the time, to forget and forgive so 
grave an injury without due reprisals would have 
been regarded as pusillanimous and cowardly. And 
now Nemesis has come. The Scottish Government 
has put in Alexander's hands a powerful w^eapon of 
revenge by giving him authority over the persons and 
property of the lieges in the north, and in this case 
he is not slow to exercise it. Donald Dubh was 
dispossessed of his lands in Lochaber, and forced to 
take refuge in Ireland. 

The Clan Maclean, also vassals of the Isles, were 
already in possession of extensive lands, and were 
rapidly rising in importance as a territorial family. 
A number of years previous to the dispossession of 
the Clan Cameron, a scion of the House of Maclean, 
John Garve, a son of Lachlan Maclean of Duart, had 
received from Alexander of Isla a grant of the lands 
and barony of Coll, and now he obtains the further 
grant from him of the forfeited lands of Donald 
Dubh. It is rather singular that the Mackintoshes, 
who were equally disloyal to Alexander in 1427, 
escaped the outpourings of the Island potentate's 
wrath. No doubt, in the latter case, there were 
relationships by marriage, though such alliances 
between Highland families were not always effective 
in averting feuds and bloodshed. In any case, the 
Mackintoshes made up the peace with Alexander, 
and remained on the same terms of vassalage as 
before. Tlie favour shewn to the Clan Chattan by 
Alexander was indeed excessive, for it was at the 
expense of a branch of his own family, the House of 
Keppoch. The family of Alastair Carrach was for- 
feited in 1431 for their action in the rising of Donald 
Balloch ; but it does not appear that the Lord of the 


Isles, on his own restoration to his Hberty and 
possessions, made any attempt to reinstate them 
in their lands. Instead of that, we find him, in 
1443, not only confirming Mackintosh in the 
lands he formerly possessed, but also giving him 
a grant of the patrimonial lands of the Keppochs. 
This unjust and unfriendly action was strenuously 
and successfully resisted by the Lords of Lochaber, 
who refused to bow to the majesty of parchment, and 
for hundreds of years there is witnessed the singular 
spectacle of a clan, in actual possession of their 
ancestral acres, holding them without a scrap of 
title,, without any instrument of tenure, save their 
good sharp broadswords and the strength of their 
right arms. Alexander still heaps favours upon the 
Chief of the Clan Chattan, for we find him in 1447 
granting him the bailliary of all Lochaber in per- 
petual fee and heritage. This was a most important 
as well as lucrative appointment, and was of a nature 
to lead to still greater sway and influence. 

There seems little reason to doubt the statement 
of Scottish historians that Alexander, despite his 
apparent loyalty and the confidence reposed ia him 
by the Council of State during his latter years, was 
drawn into that league with the Douglas family 
which, in after years, descending as an heritage 
to his successor, proved at last the ruin of his 
House. We find the Lord of the Isles and Doug-las 
having an interview in Bute in 1438, and although 
the purpose of the meeting was not disclosed, it not 
improbably had reference to the treasonable compact 
which, though not finally concluded at that time, 
was in serious and earnest contemplation.^ It was 

1 Tlie Douglas Book, vol. I., p. 440. 


in March 7, 1445, that the three Earls — Crawford, 
Douglas, and E-oss— subscribed and sealed the 
offensive and defensive league which, for the 
parties concerned, bore such disastrous fruits.^ 

Not much more that is noteworthy remains to be 
recorded of the latter years of Alexander de He. 
According to the Chronicle of the Earls of Ross^ he 
died at his Castle of Dingwall, and was buried in 
the Chanonry of Ross on the 8th May, 1449. His 
mortal remains were not conveyed to their kindred 
dust in Hy, within whose chapel of Oran the Lords 
of the Isles for many a generation found their last 
resting place. Alone of all the heads of his race he 
lies beneath the shadow of that once noble fane ^ — 
desecrated and converted into a stone quarry by 
that stout defender of the faith, Oliver Cromwell 
— but from the desolation and wreckage of the 
time not a vestige has survived to mark the place 
of sepulture of the great Earl of E,oss. 

From all that we can gather, Alexander was 
little past his prime when he died. But his youth 
of trouble and hardship may well have sown the 
seeds of premature decay and hastened the length- 
ening of the shadow. Despite some humiliating 
episodes of his younger days, he worthily upheld 
the name and honour of his line. The testimony 
borne by the ancient record of his race bears out 
the view that while he was valiant in the field 
he was kindly and generous towards his dependants, 
and that he ruled his vast territories, in his latter 
years, with tranquil and beneficent sway.^ If his 
early career was turbulent and warlike, his latter 

^ Balfour's Aniicals of Scotland, vol. L, p. 173. 
- pp. 10-11. 3 Fortrose Cathedral. ^ Ibid. 



life was full of peace and dignity, and he handed 
down unimpaired to his successor the great and 
ancient heritage of his fathers. 





John de He, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles. — The Earl a 
Minor when he succeeded. — Minority of James II. — League 
between the Earls of Ross, Crawford, and Douglas. — The 
Earl of Ross in Rebellion. — Murder of the Earl of Douglas. — 
The Earl of Ross and his Ross-shin; Neighbours. — Raids on 
Orkney by the Islemen. — Meeting of Douglas and Macdonald 
at Dunstaffnage. — Invasion of the King's Lands by Donald 
Balloch. — Raid of Lismore. — Discomfiture of Bishop Lauder. 
— The Lady of the Isles Escapes from the Highlands. — John 
receives favours from the King. — He is appointed one of the 
Wardens of the Marches. — The Earl of Ross at the Siege of 
Roxburgh. — Treaty of Ardthornish. 

On the death of Alexander of Isla, Earl of Ross, in 
1440, his son John succeeded him both in his island 
and mainland territories. The period was a com- 
paratively quiet and prosperous one in the history 
of the family of Macdonald. Alexander, after many 
struggles and vicissitudes, had succeeded at length 
in uniting to the Lordship of the Isles the mainland 
inheritance of his mother, and thus both in extent 
of territory and influence he had elevated himself to 
a pinnacle of power unequalled even by the Lord of 
Douglas in the South. The policy of Alexander seems 
to have been dictated by the wise and firm reso- 
lution not to involve himself again in an open quarrel 
with the Scottish State. Though his sympathies 
lay entirely with Crawford and Douglas, having, 
as stated in the last chapter, entered into a 


league with them, he played no active part in 
the civil commotions in which these noblemen 
were such able actors. Far removed from the 
base of operations, he remained an interested 
spectator of a kingdom torn asunder by factions 
and transformed into a stage on which the actors 
played each for his own hand. This wise and 
prudent policy evidently did not commend itself to 
Alexander's son and succe'ssor, John. The state of 
matters in the Highlands at the death of Alexander 
favoured the continuation of a defensive rather than 
an aggressive policy. The state of matters in the 
South was very different. The kingdom was still in 
the throes of a long minority, and suffering from the 
woes pronounced upon the nation whose king is a 
child. The assassination of James I., whose wise, if 
sometimes harsh, rule had done so much to restore 
order and tranquillity throughout his kingdom, was 
contemplated with secret satisfaction by those 
turbulent noblemen whose excessive power the King 
had so successfully curbed. Now that his powerful 
personality is removed, and the reins of State are 
placed in other hands, we can readily conceive how 
those ambitious and yjovverful banms, on whose 
feudal privileges the King had encroached, would 
seize the opportunity with which fortune favoured 
them and devote their energy towards the restora- 
tion of lost power and prestige. The moving spirits 
in the struggle for place and power were the 
Douglases, the Livingstons, and the Crichtons, the 
great object governing the policy of each being the 
destruction of the other, while the great body of the 
lieges groaned under the cruellest oppression. 

While Lowland Scotland was thus distracted by 
petty feuds and tumults, the Highland portion of 
the kingdom seems to have enjoyed comparative 


peace and prosperity. This is true in an especial 
manner of the extensive domain over which John, 
Lord of the Isles, held sway, and it was mainly 
owing to the wise policy of his father, Alexander. 
There was no call for an aggressive policy on the 
part of John in the circumstances in which he found 
himself on his accession to the honours and dignities 
of his house. By taking part in the quarrels of his 
Southern neighbours, he had everything to lose, and 
it is difficult to see what, under the most favourable 
circumstances, he could have ultimately gained by 
pursuing a course so unwise and unj)atriotic. He 
was already in possession of a vast territory, and 
surrounded by loyal vassals and cadets of his house. 
But John was a minor at the time of his father's 
death, and this, no doubt, largely accounts for the 
rash policy which he pursued on the very threshold 
of his career. From an entry in the Chamberlain 
Bolls, it would appear that that official charges him- 
self with the rents of the lands of the barony of 
Kynedward for two years, that barony being in 
ward through the death of Alexander, Earl of Boss.^ 
This means that John was either a minor or had not 
at this time received confirmation of the lands of 
the barony of Kynedward But an entry in the 
Exchequer Bolls of the year 1456 leaves no doubt 
as to the age of the Earl of Boss when he succeeded 
to that dignity. In this entry reference is made to 
the barony of Kynedward as having been in ward 
for three years, during which the Earl of Boss was 
a minor.^ John was, therefore, eighteen years of 

1 Chamberlain Rolls, vol. IIL, p. 527. 

'■' " Et non onerat se de firmis terrarum baronie de Kynedward, que 
fuerunt in manibus domini regis in warda per spaciuni trium annorum, que 
extendunt se ad quingentas marcas per annum et ultra, cum tenandiis 
ejusdcm, ante saisinam datam Johanni Comiti Rossie, quia ex gracia domini 
regis in minore etate consti tutus intravit in eisdem," &c., &c. — Exchequer 
Eolls, vol. VL, p. 158. Vide Ibidem, vol. V., p. 393. 


age when he succeeded his father in 1449. Bub 
though thus still of tender years, he would not have 
lacked for counsel at so critical a moment in his 
career as head of the House of Macdonald. The 
veteran Donald Balloch, Lord of Dunnyveg and the 
Antrim Glens, was the principal Councillor of the 
Island Lord, as well as Captain of the Clan Donald, 
and there were other cadets of the family who had 
attained to considerable power and influence in the 
Highlands and Islands. These were the Clanranald 
branch, the Macdonalds of Ardnamurchan, the Mac- 
donalds of Glencoe, and the Macdonalds of Keppoch. 
Surrounded by these, as well as by the other vassals 
of the family, whether at Dingwall or at Ardthornish, 
John had little to fear from his foes inside or outside 
the Highland boundary. 

Both at Dingwall and at Ardthornish, the Earl 
of Boss held Court on a scale approaching that of a 
sovereign prince. From several charters granted by 
him, we find the names of his councillors and the 
offices held by them in the government of the Isles. 
Donald Balloch comes before us as president of the 
Council, while Maclean of Ardgour and Munro of 
Fowlis were Treasurer of the Household and 
Chamberlain respectively : other ofiices were held 
by Maclean of Dowart, Macneill of Barra, Mac- 
donald of Largie, and others of the vassals of the 
Isles. One of the first charters granted by John on 
his becoming Earl of Boss was that to the Master 
of Sutherland of the lands of Easter Kindeace for 
his homage and faithful service, and among the 
witnesses are the names of several members of the 
Island Council. The Earl of Boss, however, did not 
confine himself to the affairs of his own principality. 
It would have been well if he had. He had barely 


succeeded to his patrimony when we find him in 
league with the Earls of Douglas and Crawford. 
These noblemen had raised the standard of revolt 
in the Lowlands, and had set all law and order at 
defiance. Both were selfish, cruel, and ambitious, 
and being possessed of great power and influence, 
their rebellious attitude was a constant menace, 
and a source of danger, to the Scottish State. 
Their extensive estates gave them the command 
of a powerful army of military vassals, but this 
only stimulated their ambition to grasp at still 
greater power, and they seem to have set before 
themselves no less a task than the dismemberment 
of the kingdom. A mutual oath was entered into 
between them, " that each of them should be aiding 
and assisting against all the world, to the friends 
and confederates of one another."^ Into this 
dangerous league the young Earl of Eoss threw 
himself, prompted, no doubt, by the vain ambition 
of acquiring yet greater power and adding to his 
already far too extensive domains. Only a momen- 
tary lull, and the heather is ablaze. It is not in 
the north alone the standard of revolt is raised, the 
whole kingdom is thrown into a turmoil of rebellion. 
The confederate lords are acting in concert. The 
signal is given, and the dogs of war are let loose. 
The Earl of Ross, who had married the daughter 
of Sir James Livingston, the King acting in the 
interesting capacity of matchmaker, was no doubt 
somewhat disappointed at not receiving the tocher, 
with the promise of which His Majesty had clinched 
the matrimonial bargain. But the disgrace and 
attainder of Livingston intervening was the cause, 
no doubt, why the royal promise was not imple- 

1 Buchanan, vol. II., p. 239, Ed. 1821. 


merited. Neither the nonpayment of the tocher, 
however, nor the disgrace of Sir James, was the 
prime motive for the conduct of the Earl of Ross 
in the present revolt against the King's authority. 
It was, as we have seen, part of a great scheme, 
into which John had entered with the insurgent 
lords of Douglas and Crawford, and from which he 
hoped to gain a much greater prize than Elizabeth 
Livingston's dowry. 

The Island Lord summoned his vassals to his 
standard, and from island and mainland they rally 
to the fray. The details of this formidable rebellion 
have not been recorded, but the great outlines of 
the transaction remain. John, at the head of a 
large body of his vassals, marched to Inverness, 
and without much opposition took the Castle, 
which having strongly garrisoned, he proceeded to 
Urquhart. He claimed the lands of Urquhart as 
part of the Earldom of Hoss, which lands, with the 
Castle, had formerly been in the possession of his 
family. The stronghold of Urquhart, which was 
almost impregnable in its great size and strength, 
was now held for the King. The Island Lord at 
once attacked it, and after a short but stout resist- 
ance on the part of the garrison, John became 
master of the situation. His father-in-law, Living- 
ston, who on hearing of the commotion in the 
North had escaped from the King's custody, was 
made governor of Urquhart Castle by John. 
Intoxicated with the success which attended him 
at Urquhart and Inverness, he marched southwards 
through Moray, and taking the Castle of Ruthven, 
another royal stronghold, he committed it to the 
flames. The King, who had evidently not yet 
discovered the treasonable league between Douglas, 


Crawford, and Macdonald, devoted all his energy 
and resources to the Southern portion of his kingdom. 
At all events, no immediate step was taken to 
punish the island rebel, and that potentate remains 
defiantly in possession of his recent conquests. 
James II., who had just come of age, was not by 
any means wanting in administrative capacity or 
military ardour. Both were very soon put to the 
test. The Southern portion of his kingdom, torn 
and distracted by the feuds of the Lowland barons, 
had become a fertile region of all confusion and 
rapine. It required the possession of a steady 
judgment and a firm hand to restore order and 
good government, and the energy of the young 
monarch was taxed to the utmost in the attempt 
to accomplish this desirable result. The King's 
whole attention, therefore, being meanwhile devoted 
to his unruly subjects in the South, the Earl of Boss 
and his clansmen enjoy the benefit of complete 
immunity from the royal vengeance. But the tide 
of affairs, after a brief Interval, took a sudden turn, 
and the Island Lord appears in a new light. The 
treasonable league between Macdonald, Douglas, 
and Crawford, very probably recently renewed, was 
at length discovered by the King, and he at once 
realised the powerful combination arrayed against 

Meanwhile an event happened which changed the 
King's plans, and helped to break up the league 
between the confederate lords in an unexpected 
manner. The Earl of Douglas, on his return to 
Scotland, and at the instigation of the English 
Court, put himself without delay in communication 
with Macdonald and Crawford, and in order to carry 
out the elaborate scheme against the Scottish State, 


Douglas opened the campaign by summoning his 
vassals and retainers to his standard. One only, it 
would appear, disobeyed the call, and, asserting his 
independence, refused to join in the insurrection. 
This bold vassal, whose name was Maclellan, was 
closely allied by blood to Sir Patrick Gray, a courtier 
of high standing in the King's household. Douglas, 
highly incensed at the conduct of his retainer, 
ordered his arrest and imprisonment at Douglas 
Castle. On the news of the imprisonment of 
Maclellan reaching the Court, the King at once 
despatched a messenger demanding the release of 
the prisoner. Divining the purport of the royal 
messenger's visit, and knowing well that his presence 
betokened no good omen, Douglas gave orders 
privately to have Maclellan beheaded. This defiant 
conduct on the part of Douglas, so utterly regardless 
of the King's authority, roused the indignation of 
James, who would have taken immediate steps to 
bring him to justice if he had not dreaded his 
power. Meantime the King, suppressing his indig- 
nation, prudently determined to have a secret 
conference with Douglas in the Castle of Stirling, 
ostensibly with the purpose of making a better 
citizen of the haughty baron. James gave his 
assurance under the Great Seal for the personal 
safety of the Earl. Relying on the Boyal assurance, 
Douglas sped to Stirling, where the King and Court 
then resided, and presented himself before His 
Majesty. The King remonstrated with him for his 
treasonable proceedings, and especially for the league 
he had entered into with Macdonald and Crawford. 
The proud Lord of Douglas listened with impatience 
to the reproaches of his Sovereign, and, at length, 
defied James, whereupon the King, losing all control 


of his temper, drew his dagger and stabbed the rebel 
lord. The courtiers present rushed to the scene, 
and in a few moments the unfortunate nobleman 
succumbed to their vengeance. It is impossible to 
justify the conduct of the King. Whether pre- 
meditated or in a fit of temper, no justification can 
be pleaded for an act committed in direct violation 
of his solemn promise to protect the person of his 
victim. There can be but little sympathy, on the 
other hand, for the murdered noblemao, whose own 
hands were not free from blood, and whose career 
throughout was marked by the most cruel and 
tyrannical actions. 

Thus the first blow was aimed at the Macdonald, 
Crawford, and Douglas league, but it did not 
prove effective. The leading spirit of the cabal was 
removed only to make room for another Douglas, 
whose chief aim was to perpetuate the policy 
of his house towards the Scottish State, The 
aspect of affairs in the Highlands present a very 
favourable contrast to the state of matters in 
Lowland Scotland. It would be difficult to 
conceive a picture darker in its outlines than 
that drawn by the hand of a well-known historian 
of this period in the history of Scotland south of 
the Forth. The history of the Highlands may 
be searched in vain for a parallel, often as that 
history has been perverted to suit the prejudices 
of the Lowland mind. The cold-blooded murders, 
the selfish schemes to gratify family ambition, the 
cruel oppression and tyranny, which stain the 
whole social fabric, are on a scale unequalled by 
the darkest period in the history of Celtic Scotland. 
The governing principle in such a state of society 
invariably is to keep and acquire as much as 


'i^cTbr^c if tij^fe^ 


possible whether by fair means or foul. Judged 
from this point of view, the present attitude of 
the Island Lord may well be justified. 

The temporary discomfiture of the Douglas party, 
and the strong measures taken by the King and his 
advisers to put down the rebellion of Crawford, were 
not without their effect on the Earl of Hoss. The 
King appointed the Earl of Huntly, a nobleman of 
great courage and ability, lieutenant-general of the 
kingdom, and granted him a commission to proceed 
against the rebel Earls of Crawford and Ross. Huntly 
devoted his attention, in the first place, to Crawford, 
whom he defeated in a pitched battle near the town 
of Brechin. Though not personally present in this 
engagement, the Earl of Boss sent a contingent of 
clansmen to the assistance of the Earl of Crawford. 
Huntly's plan of campaign was to attack the rebel 
lords one after the other, and defeat them in turn. 
Macdonald, who still held his own in the North, 
realising his danger, began to make elaborate 
preparations to resist the threatened invasion of 
the King's lieutenant. The formidable defence 
made by the Earl of Boss struck terror into the 
heart of the invading host, and Huntly, who had 
penetrated as far as Moray, retired in dismay. No 
further attempt was made, at least meanwhile, to 
subdue the Northern potentate. The Earl of 
Huntly's services were required elsewhere, and 
the Douglasses seem to have taken up the whole 
attention of the King. In any case, the Earl of 
Boss still continued to hold the castles of Inverness 
and Urquhart, and suffered no diminution of his 
power in the North. Though in league with 
Crawford and Douglas, he cannot be said to have 
taken an active part with them in the recent revolt 



against the Scottish Government. He prudently 
remained at home, and allowed his confederates to 
fight for their own hand. The King was too busy 
elsewhere to attack him in the North, and the 
Island Lord was a formidable problem at any 

Though free from Southern interference, the 
Earl of Ross was not without his troubles at home. 
Ever since the Macdonald family settled in Ross- 
shire, the neighbouring clans, and even some of the 
vassals of the Earldom, looked with a jealous eye 
on their growing power and influence. Chief among 
these were the Mackenzies, at this time of no great 
account as a clan, the Mackays, and the Suther- 
lands. Sir Robert Gordon, in his " Earldom of 
Sutherland," gives accounts of the clan battles, or 
skirmishes, that took place about this time in the 
North. He records how the Earl of Ross, accom- 
panied by a force of between 500 and 600 clansmen, 
had the presumption to invade Sutherland and 
encamp near the Castle of Skibo. Macdonald's 
object in invading Sutherland seems to have been 
to harry the country, injure the inhabitants, and 
carry off as much spoil as circumstances would 
permit. John, Earl of Sutherland, however, being 
far above soiling his own hands in a petty quarrel 
between his vassals and Macdonald of the Isles, sent 
a Neill Murray (the descent of Neili still remains an 
open question) with a company of the brave men of 
Sutherland to give battle to the invading Macdonald 
host. The issue was not for a moment uncertain. 
The Macdonalds, after a sharp conflict, were put to 
flight, and they beat a hasty retreat to Ross witliout 
spoil. Though for the time repulsed, the Mac- 
donalds were not quite annihilated, and recuperating 


their exhausted energies, they made another 
incursion into Sutherland in the hope of repairing 
the loss they sustained at the hands of Neill Murray 
at Skibo. Penetrating into Strathnaver, they were 
met on the sands of Strathfleet by Robert Suther- 
land, brother of the Earl of Sutherland, at the head 
of " some men assembled in all haste." Here the 
Macdonalds were again defeated, which was to be 
expected, and believing discretion to be the better 
part of valour, they never again invaded the 
territory of the great Eaii John of Sutherland. Sir 
Robert Gordon is, of course, writing up the Earls of 
Sutherland, and, in the process, he considers it to 
be his duty by way of contrast to write down all 
who oppose themselves to his family gods. From 
the well-known character of his book, it is not 
necessary to enter here into any detailed criticism 
of its value historically. His clan stories and gene- 
alogies, so persistently repeated by others, should 
be received with due caution, and, if in any way 
associated with the family of Sutherland, for what 
they are worth, which, in our opinion, is very little. 
Sir Robert Gordon was a family seanachie, and his book 
is marked by the blemishes that generally taint such 
works and render them often practically valueless as 
guides to historical research. It is amusing to read 
the glowing accounts given by this historian of the 
prowess in the field, the eloquence in council, and 
the domestic virtues of his Earls of Sutherland, most 
of which unfortunately are contradicted by the stern 
facts of history. The independence of Scotland 
would have been delayed, it is hard to say how 
long, if the prowess of the Earl of Sutherland had 
not secured it for ever on the bloody field of 
Bannockburn. An Earl of Sutherland was never 


wanting when the welfare of the realm was at stake, 
and this country will never know all it owes to that 
great family of which Sir Robert Gordon was so 
faithful a chronicler. 

There is no doubt some slight foundation for Sir 
Robert Gordon's stories of the clan feuds of tiiis 
period. Macdonald of Lochalsh, Hugh of Sleat, 
and Roderick MacAUan of Clanranald, were always 
ready, when not engaged against the Saxon, to 
pounce upon their Celtic neighbours. The Munroes, 
the Rosses, the Mackenzies, the Frasers, and others, 
were quite as ready to give them a warm welcome. 
Nothing is more likely to have happened than a 
series of plundering raids by Roderick of Clanranald 
and the other leaders of the clan into Sutherland, 
and we can imagine without much effort the con- 
sternation of the natives at the approach of these 
plundering bands. We confess to finding it some- 
wliat difficult to imagine any such scenes of 
siaaghter as are alleged, in Sir Robert Gordon's 
pa.ges, to have been witnessed at Skibo and on 
the sands of Strathfleet. CWachs, however, were 
common to both Highlands and Lowlands ; but so 
far as the annals of the time furnish us with any 
hints, this period was, on the whole, an uncommonly 
quiet and prosperous one in the history of the Clan 
Cholla. The quiet periods in the history of the 
Highlands and Islands, consisting of those intervals, 
generally short, during which the Lords of the 
Isles and their vassals maintained friendly 
relationships with the Scottish Government were, 
however, only relatively tranquil. It was seldom 
the House of Isla was free from those domestic 
feuds which bulk so largely in the traditions of 
the country. The seanachies, embodying these 


traditions in their manuscripts, give us vivid, 
if sometimes exaggerated, pictures of the marauding 
and piratical expeditions engaged in by the restless 
spirits of those times. The stories told by some of the 
seanachies, when brought under the light of authentic 
history, are found in many instances to be wonder- 
fully reliable. Both MacVuirich and Hugh Mac- 
donald refer to a raid on the Orkney Islands by 
the young men of the Isles, led by Hugh Macdonald 
of Sleat, brother of John, Earl of Boss.^ Authentic 
records of the time not only confirm this raid but 
refer to a series of other raids on Orkney, and other 
Norse possessions, by the men of the Isles. In a 
manifesto by the bailies of Kirkwall and community 
of Orkney the complaint is made that the Orkneys 
were habitually overrun by bands of Islesmen sent 
thither by the Earl of Ross, designed as "ah antiquo 
inimicus capitalist These invasions were of yearly 
occurrence during the reign of James II. The 
Islanders, according to the manifesto, plundered, 
burned, and ravaged the country, and carried off 
cattle and whatever else they could lay their hands 
on.^ In a letter by William Tulloch, Bishop of 
Orkney, dated 28th June, 1461, the same complaint 
is made against the men of the Isles, and the Bishop 
alludes to the efforts which he was then making to 
come to an arrangement with the Earl of Ross to 
put a stop to these marauding expeditions.^ What 
success attended these laudable efforts on the part 
of the good Bishop history does not record. The 
Earl of Ross and his Islesmen are soon required 

^ Hugh Macdonald in Collect?.nea do Rebus Albanicis, p. 306 ; MacVuirich 
in Reliq. Celt., p. 213. 

^ Diplomatarium Norwegicuni X., 606. 
3 Ibidem, 599. 


elsewhere, and little time is left for raids, naval 
or other, in the North. 

The Earl of Douglas, who had long kept the 
Lowlands in a perfect turmoil of civil war, was 
finally defeated by the King's forces at Arkinholme, 
in Annandale. Disappointed of expected English 
aid, and having been declared traitor to the Scottish 
State, Douglas, as a last resort, betook himself to 
Argyleshire, where, in the Castle of Dunstaffnage, 
he was received by Donald Balloch Macdonald, 
who may not inappropriately be called the 
lieutenant-general of the Isles. ^ Here the Earl 
of Ross, who had come from the North, and 
Douglas met in solenni conference to decide what 
steps should be taken in the present emergency. 
The result of their deliberations was soon apparent. 
Both, with equal sincerity, vowed vengeance on the 
royal party. Douglas having persuaded the Island 
Lord, apparently without much difficulty, to espouse 
his cause, and thus set the ball a-rolling, hastened 
across the border into England, where he was cordially 
received by the Duke of York. Macdonald imme- 
diately prepared for an invasion of the King's lands, 
and summoning his clansmen and vassals, he soon 
gathered to his standard a force 5000 strong. 
The command of this force he bestowed on the 
veteran Donald Balloch, whose prowess in many a 
field had been the admiration alike of friend and 
foe. A fleet of 100 galleys was equipped for the 
expedition, and Donald, directing his course towards 
the mainland, proceeded to Inverkip, where he 
landed his force. There appears to have been no 
opposition oftered to this formidable armament, and 
Donald was allowed, not only to land unmolested, 

^ Lives of the Douglases, p. 203. Origines Par. Scotise Appendix, p. 826. 


but on penetrating into the country he carried fire 
and sword everywhere he went with impunity. 
From Inverkip he directed his course towards the 
island of Arran, which, with the Cumbraes and 
Bute, he invaded in turn, burning and plundering 
wherever he went. Donald's object primarily, how- 
ever, was not plunder but revenge, and this he now 
gratified to the full. After besieging the Castle of 
Brodick and burning it to the ground, he next 
attacked the Castle of Bothesay, which having 
taken, he made himself master of Bute. According 
to the Auchinleck Chronicle, he carried away 
immense spoil from this and the adjacent islands 
and mainland, includino^ a hundred bolls of meal, a 
hundred bolls of malt, a hundred marts and a 
hundred marks of silver, five hundred horses, ten 
thousand oxen and kine, and more than a thousand 
sheep and goats. The loss in lives and property 
does not appear to have been very great in pro- 
portion to the strength of the invading forces. If 
we are to believe the chronicler, there were slain 
only " of good men fifteen, of women two or three, 
and of children three or four."^ It w^ould appear 
from this that Donald's object was not so much to 
punish the natives as the superiors of the lands 
which he had invaded, and according, therefore, to 
the standard of the time, the Island leader, tempering 
his revenge with mercy, behaved in the circum- 
stances in a manner worthy of some commendation. 
Donald's conduct, however, in the episode which 
followed, and with which his naval raid was con- 
cluded, is deserving of the severest condemnation. 
Lauder, the Bishop of Lismore, a Lowlander, had 
evidently through over-zeal in the exercise of his 

^ Auchinleck Chronicle. 


sacred calling made himself obnoxious to the men of 
Argyle. Instead of going cautiously to work, and 
making himself acquainted with the mode of living 
of the people, with the oversight of whom he had 
been entrusted, he exercised discipline v^ith a strong 
hand, and sought to bring the inhabitants into 
conformity with the ways and manners of the South. 
This he found by no means an easy task. The 
people, of whose language and manners the bishop 
was utterly ignorant, stubbornly resisted his reforms, 
and were driven by his high-handed policy to com- 
mit outrages on his person and ravage and plunder 
the sacred edifices of his diocese. The bishop had 
besides, as one of the King's Privy Council, afiixed 
his seal to the instrument of forfeiture against the 
Earl of Douglas, and this only added another to his 
already many offences against the Lord of Dunnyveg. 
Donald now had his opportunity of punishing the 
obnoxious prelate, and without delay he proceeded 
to Lismore, where the bishop resided, and besieged 
him in his sanctuary. After ravaging the island 
with fire and sword, he put to death the principal 
adherents of the bishop, in all likelihood natives of 
the Lowlands, while the prelate himself escaped 
with his life by taking refuge in the Cathedral 
Church of his diocese. Without wishing to condone 
the conduct of the Island leader in any way, it may 
be permissible to say that this prelate, by his short- 
sighted and unwdse policy, had himself done nmch 
to provoke this and other outrages on his sacred 
calling and jurisdiction. That, however, does not 
warrant the outrages committed on this or on 
former occasions on the Bishop of Argyle, and 
Donald Balloch nowhere comes before us in a worse 
light than in his expedition to Lismore. 


No immediate action seems to have been taken 
by the King to punish the rebel Lord of Dunnyveg, 
or his chief, the Earl of Ross, in the recent treason- 
able proceedings. In Argyle and the Isles it would 
have been vain to attack them. The Scottish navy 
at this time was not fit to cope with the strong 
maritime power of the Isles, and this probably was 
the principal reason why the King thought it 
prudent not to hazard an expedition to Argyle. 
In any case there is no record of the pains and 
penalties which should have fallen on the devoted 
head of the sacrilegious spoiler of the sacred Island 
of Lismore. One incident may be recorded which 
throws light on the turmoil into which the Douglas- 
Macdonald league had thrown the Highlands and 
Islands. Feeling no longer safe in these regions, 
John of Isla's consort, the Lady Elizabeth Living- 
ston, escaped with all haste from the country, and, 
finding her way to Court, threw herself on the 
protection of the King. According to one of the 
Scottish historians, this lady married the Island 
Lord with the laudable view of toning down his 
rugged disposition and making him a loyal Scottish 
subject. In this, it would appear, the Lady 
Elizabeth utterly failed, and her return to Court at 
the present juncture is a clear indication of the 
policy of the Earl of Ross towards the executive 
government, as it also makes only too apparent the 
wide gulf that separated racially the North from the 
South. The King received the Countess of Ross 
with much cordiality, and a suitable maintenance 
having been assigned her, she appears to have 
remained at Court during the remainder of her life. 

The Earl of Ross, weakened by the defeat of the 
Pouglas party, finally sent messengers to the King 


offering to repair the wrongs he had committed on 
his majesty's heges, and promised in anticipation of 
the royal clemency being extended to him to atone 
with good deeds in the future for his rebellious 
conduct in the past. The Earl well knew that his 
wisest policy in the present state of affairs was to 
make his peace with the King. He could not very 
long stand out in his present attitude and expect 
much success to attend his efforts in opposition to 
the Scottish Government. But he appears to be 
perfectly sincere in his desire to be reconciled to the 
King, and there is reason to believe that in this 
loyal attitude he would have remained, if evil 
counsel, to which he had been at all times 
susceptible, had not prevailed. The King at first 
was not disposed to treat with John on any terms, 
but finally, by a judicious union of firmness and 
lenity, and dreading another insurrection in the 
Highlands, his Majesty granted the Northern 
potentate a period of probation during which he was 
to shew the sincerity of his penitence. Mean- 
while the King summoned a meeting of Parliament 
to consider the affairs of his realm. Whether the 
Earl of Hoss was present at this meeting, or was 
represented, does not appear very clear, but it seems 
that much attention was devoted to the Highlands 
and Islands, and that many good and salutary 
laws were passed for the welfare and peace of the 
realm generally. The Earl of Boss, it would appear, 
is now on his good behaviour, for, according to the 
good Bishop Lesley, the King in this Parliament 
" maid sic moyennis with the principallis captanis of 
the His and hielands that the same wes als peacable 
as ony parte of the Lawlandis, and obedient as weill 
in paying of all dewties of thair landis to the King, 


als redy to sarve in wearis with greit cumpanyis."^ 
" The principallis cajiitanis of the His," including no 
doubt the hero of the recent naval raid, had from all 
appearance been suddenly converted, but lilie most 
sudden conversions, there do not appear to have 
followed any results of a permanent kind. 

Notwitiistanding the friendly relations in which 
the Earl of Ross now stood to the Crown, the 
King, in a Parliament held at Edinburgh in 1455, 
deprived him of both the castles of Inverness and 
Urquhart.^ Next year, however, the Castle of 
Urquhart, together with the lands of Urquhart 
and Glenmoriston, were granted to John at an 
annual rent of £100.^ To these were added at 
the same thne the lands of Abertarff and Strath- 
errick,* and to still further confirm the loyalty of 
the Island Lord, the King conferred upon him the 
lands of Grennane in Ayrshire.^ 

What conspicuous services were rendered to the 
State by the Earl of E-oss after his sudden con- 
version history does not record, but his behaviour 
seems to have been such as to warrant us in 
believing in the sincerity of his repentance. The 
King himself must have received some proof of 
his loyalty, for in the year 1457 His Majesty 
appointed John one of the Wardens of the 

^ Historic of Scotland by John Lesley, Bishop of Ross, p. 27. 

^ " Thir ar ye lordschippis ande castellis annext to ye croune 

Item ye hous of Innurness and Ureharde and ye lordschippis of thame and ye 
lordschippe of Abernethy with ye wattles maylis lunnerness togidder with ye 
baronyis of Ureharde glenorquhane bouiche bonochare anuache Edderdaill 
callyt Ardmanache peety brachly Stratlierue with ye pertineutis." — Acta 
Parliameutorum Jacobi II., vol. II., p. 42. 

2 Exchequer Eolls, vol. V., p. 217. 

* " Et allocate eidem de firmis terrarum de Abertarf et Strathardock de 
termino huju^j compoti, concessarum dicto comiti Rossie apud Tnvernys per 
dominum nostrum regem." — Exchequer Rolls, vol. V., p. 222, 

^ Ibidem, vol. VI., 236. 


Marches, an office of great importance and respon- 
sibility/ No doubt the King's policy was to 
attach John to his person and Government. In 
bestowing upon him this office of trust under his 
Government, the King evinced his desire to cure 
the northern potentate of his rebellious tendencies, 
and wean him from the influence of those factions 
whicb had been so baneful in the past. As a 
further proof of his confidence, the King appointed 
John with other noblemen to conclude a truce with 

The history of the Highlands during the next 
few years, so far as the Earl of Ross is concerned, 
is almost a blank. The only reference to him in his 
official capacity which we have been able to find is 
in a document preserved in the Kilravock Charter 
Chest, and which bears that the Earl granted Hose 
of Kilravock permission to " big ande upmak a toure 
of fens." The document, which is written in the 
vernacular of the 15th century, is in the following 
terms : — 

" Joline of Yle, Erie of Ross ande Lord of the His, to all ande 
sundry to quhais knawlage thir our present letteris sail come ; 
Greeting : Witte us to have gevyn ande grantit and be thir pre- 
sent letteris gevis ande grantis, our full power ande licence till 
our luffid cosing, man ande tennand, Huchone de Roos, baron of 
Kylravok, to fund, big, ande upmak a toure of fens, with barmkin 
ande bataling, wpon quhat place of strynth him best likis, within 
the barony of Kylravok, without ony contradiction n or demavnd, 
questionn, or any obiection to put in contrar of him or his ayris, 
be vs or our ayris, for the said toiire ande barmkyn making, with 
the bataling, now or in tyme to cum : In witness hereof, ve haf 
gert our sele to ther letteris be affixt at Inuernys, the achtend day 
of Februar, the yer of Godd a thousand four hundretd sixte yer." 

1 Rymer XL, 397. " Ibidem, 397, 


The time soon arrived when the Earl of Ross, 
emerging' from liis temporary obscurity, acts a part 
very different from that which he was accustomed 
to play on the stage of Scottish history. In 
the year 1460, James II. entered on his campaign 
against England. The truce between the tw^o 
countries to which, as we have seen, John, Earl of 
Hoss, was a party had not lasted long. The King 
opened his campaign by attacking the Castle of 
Roxburgh, an important frontier stronghold, then, 
and for long prior to this time, in the possession of 
the English. Here he was joined by the Earl of 
Ross at the head of 3000 clansmen, "all armed in 
the Highland fashion, with habergeons, bows and 
axes, and promised to the King, if he pleased to pass 
any further in the bounds of England, that he and 
his company should pass a large mile afore the rest 
of the host, and take upon them the first press and 
dint of the battle."^ The Island Lord was received 
with great cordiality by the King, who commanded 
him, as a mark of distinction, to remain near his 
person, while his clansmen meanwhile set themselves 
to the congenial task of harrying the English borders. 
The unfortunate and melancholy death of the King 
from the bursting of a cannon at the very com- 
mencement of the siege of Roxburgh virtually 
brought the campaign against England to an end, 
and the Earl of Ross had no opportunity of proving 
his own fidelity, or the courage and bravery of his 
clansmen. The untimely death of the King in the 
flower of his youth and at the very beginning of his 
vigorous manhood exposed the country once more to 
the dangers attendant on a long minority. James, 
during his comparatively short reign, had proved 

^ Lindsay's History of Scotland, 


himself a wise and judicious ruler. Of this we have 
ample evidence in the success which attended his 
efforts in destroying the overgrown power of the 
house of Douglas, and attaching to his interests such 
men as the Earl of Ross. 

Shortly after the death of the King, on the 23rd 
of February, 1461, a Parliament was held at Edin- 
burgh to consider the affairs of the realm, when the 
Queen -mother was appointed regent during the 
minority of her son, the heir to the throne, then 
only in his seventh year. This Parliament, which 
was largely attended by all the estates of the realm, 
was also attended by John, Earl of Ross, and many 
other Highland chiefs. Though no detailed record 
of it remains, we can gather from the main outlines 
of the proceedings the elements of civil commotion 
in the near future. Parliament had no sooner dis- 
solved than an insurrection broke out in Argyleshire, 
the fertile region of dissensions. The cause of the 
commotion w^as a quarrel between Allan Macdougall, 
of the house of Lorn, and his brother, John Ciar 
Macdougall. Allan, who was a nephew of Donald 
Balloch Macdonald, lay claim to certain lands in the 
possession of John Ciar. This claim the latter 
resisted, but he was overpowered by Allan, and 
imprisoned by him in a dungeon on the island of 
Kerrera. This was the signal for a rising on the 
part of the friends on both sides, and a bloody 
conflict ensued. Allan was defeated, but as a result 
of the commotion, the whole Western Highlands 
were thrown into the wildest confusion.^ In the 
southern portion of the kingdom the aspect of 
affairs presents no brighter prospect for the future 

^ Buchanan, vol. II., 279. Auchinleck Chronicle, 58. 


prosperity of the country. The welfare of the 
nation is sacrificed to the private ambition of 
factious nobles. 

The Earl- of Ross, whose loyalty, as we have seen, 
was so conspicuous during the latter portion of the 
reign of the late King, now that that strong 
personality is removed from the helm of stabe, 
allows himself once more to become the victim of 
the Douglas faction. By a judicious combination of 
firmness and moderation, the King had disarmed 
the enmity of the Island Lord, and had James 
not been cut off so prematurely, there is every 
reason to believe that John would have continued 
loyal to the Scottish throne. The death of the 
King, however, soon plunged the Scottish State into 
the difficulties that are always inseparable from a 
minoritv. It will be remembered that the last Earl 
of Douglas had been forfeited in all his estates, and 
was now undergoing his sentence of banishment at 
the Court of Edward IV. Douglas had, in the days 
of his prosperity, maintained friendly intercourse 
with the family of York, and now that Edward IV. 
seemed in a fair way to crush the House of 
Lancaster, Douglas would fain hope that the power 
and influence of England might be directed towards 
the restoration of his lost territories and position in 
Scotland. Meantime the banished Earl watched 
with deepest interest the passing phases of political 
feeling between the English and Scottish crowns, 
and he left no means unused to win his old aUy, 
the Earl of Ross, from the friendly relation in 
which he now stood towards the Government of 
the northern kingdom. As had often happened 
in the past, the difficulties which England had to 


deal with at home and in France had hitherto 
proved a barrier against active interposition in the 
affairs of Scotland, and the Wars of the Roses had 
particularly absorbed all the energies of the House 
of York. In the year to which we have come, 
however, the two events already referred to, the 
accession of Edward lY. to the English throne 
and the death of James II. of Scotland, seemed 
to shed a gleam of hope on the broken fortunes 
of the exiled Earl. Edward lent his countenance 
to the Douglas scheme all the more readily because 
the Scottish Court had afforded an asylum to his 
opponent, Henry of Lancaster, whose defeat at 
Taunton had driven him to Scotland, while it 
placed Edward on the English throne. Various 
schemes were devised in Scotland for the restora- 
tion of the exiled English monarch, all of which 
proved futile. To counteract these and divert the 
Scottish rulers from their object and neutralise 
their efforts, Edward lent a willing hand to Douglas 
in his desperate scheme. The King of Scotland was 
a child, and past experience had taught that a 
Scottish regency, accompanied as it often was by 
faction and conspiracy, would afford scope for the 
execution of such a scheme as Douglas might devise 
for his restoration to the honours which he had 

The time had evidently come when the old league 
with the Macdonald Family might be revived in a 
bolder spirit and with more ample scope. In these 
circumstances we are not surprised to find that a 
few weeks after the King's death the first overtures 
are made to the Earl of Ross for the formation of 
an offensive and defensive league with England. 


That the Enghsh Government was the first to move 
in the matter is evidenced by the fact that the writ 
empowering the Commissioners from England to 
treat with the Lord of the Isles was issued on the 
22nd of June, 1461, while the ambassadors from the 
Isles were not formally commissioned until the 19th 
October following. The English Commissioners to 
the Isles were the banished Earl of Douglas, his 
brother, John Douglas of Balveny, Sir William 
"Wells, Dr John Kingscote, and John Stanley. 
The following is the text of the writ appointing 
the English Commissioners : — 

" Ambassiatores Assign antur ad Tract andum cum Comitb 


Rex omnibus ad quos (fee. salutem. Sciatis quod nos de fidelitate 
et provida circumspectione 

carissimi consanguine! nostri Jacobi Comitis Douglas ac 
dilectorum et fidelium nostrorum Willelmi Welles militis et 

Johannis Kyngescote legum 
doctoris necnon 
dilectorum nobis Johamiis Douglas et 

Johannis Stanley. 
Plenius confidentes assignavimus et constituimus ipsos comitem 
Willelmum Johannem Johannem et Johannem ambassiatores 
commissaries sive nuncios nOstros speciales ad conveniendum cum 
carissimo consanguineo nostro Johanne comite de Rosse ac 
dilecto et fidele nostro Donaldo Ballagh 

seu eorum ambassiatoribus commissai'iis sive nunciis sufficientem 
potestatem ab eisdem consanguines nostro Comite de Rosse et 
Donaldo in ea parte habitentibus. Necnon ad tractandum et 
comicandum cum eisdem de et super cunctis materiis et negotiis 
nos et ipsos consanguineum nostrum comitem de Rosse tangentibus 
sive concernentibus ac de et in materiis et negotiis predictis 
precedendis appunctuandis concordandis et concludendis. 

Ceteraque omnia et singula in premissis et eorum dependentiia 
debita et requisita concedenda facienda eb expedienda, Promitt- 
entes bona fide et verbo regio in hiis scriptis quod omnia et 
singula que in premissis vel circa ea per ambassiatores commissarios 



sive nuncios predictos appunctuata concordata et conclusa fuerint 

rata grata firma habevimus pro perpetuo. In cujus &c. 

T. R. Apud Westminstrem xxij die Junii. Per ipsam regem." ^ 

For consideration of the proposals about to be 
submitted to the English envoys, the Lord of the 
Isles with his council, a body that existed in 
connection with the family from the earliest times, 
met and deliberated in the Castle of Ardthornish, 
which, in the time of John, Earl of E,oss, was the 
meeting place on important and State occasions. 
The Douglasses and the other Commissioners of 
Edward seem to have come all the way to 
Ardthornish to lay their proposals before John 
and his privy council. What the conclusion 
arrived at, after mature and solemn deliberation, 
was, we are not informed. In any case, it was 
necessary that the tentative compact must be 
considered and ratified in the great English 
capital itself To represent the interests of 

^ Ambassadors are appointed to Treat with the Earl op Ross. 

The King to all to whom, kc, salvation. Know ye that we, trusting 
very fully in the faithfulness and prudence of our dearest cousin James Earl 
of Douglas and of our dear and faithful William Welles, Knight, and John 
Kyngescote, Doctor of Laws, also of our dear John Douglas and John Stanley, 
have nominated and appointed these same, the Earl, William, John, John and 
John our special ambassadors, commissioners or messengers, for meeting vrith 
our dearest cousin John Earl of Ross and our dear and faithful Donald Balloch 
or their ambassadors, commissioners, or messengers having sufficient power 
from our same cousins the Earl of Ross and Donald Balloch — on that part. 
Also for treating and communicating with these same concerning and with 
regard to all matte-s and affairs touching and concerning ourselves and our 
cousin Earl of Ross and with regard to what is contained in the matters 
and affairs aforesaid that have to be proceeded with, determined, agreed upon 
and concluded. And other matters all and each which ought to and must 
needs be granted, carried out and arranged as in the premisses and their 
conclusions. Promising in good faith and by our royal word in these 
documents that all and each of the items in or bearing upon the premisses 
that shall have been appointed agreed upon and concluded by the foresaid 
ambassadors, commissioners or messengers we shall hold settled agreeable to 
us and fixed for ever. In testimony of which, &c. 
T. R. At Westminster 22nd day of June. By the King himself. 


the Macdonald Family at Westminster, two 
Commissioners were appointed. Ranald Bane 
of the Isles, son of John Mor Tainistear, and 
founder of the family of Largie, and Duncan, 
Archdean of the Isles, were appointed to meet 
the English Commissioners ; and it was no ordinary 
sign of confidence that they were entrusted with 
such important and delicate negotiations. The 
English Commissioners appointed to meet the 
Commissioners of the Isles at Westminster were 
Lawrence, Bishop of Durham, the Earl of Worcester, 
the Prior of St John's, Lord Wenlock, and Robert 
Stillington, Keeper of the King's Seal. The treaty 
that was concluded in the name of the English 
King and the Earl of Ross, with the Earl of 
Douglas as the moving spirit of the plot, was 
bold and sweeping in its provisions. It was 
undoubtedly treasonable to the Scottish State, 
but the whole history of the family of the Isles, 
and in a measure, of that of Douglas, was a 
continued protest against the supremacy of the 
Crown. From the terms of the treaty, it would 
appear that the object in view was nothing less 
than the complete conquest of Scotland by the 
Earls of Ross and Douglas, assisted by the English 
King. The Earl of Koss, Donald Balloch, and 
John, his son and heir, agreed to become vassals 
of England, and with their followers to assist 
Edward IV. in his wars in Ireland and elsewhere. 
For these services, and as the reward of their 
vassalage, the Earl of Ross was to be paid a 
salary of £200 sterling annually in time of war, 
and in time of peace, 100 merks ; Donald Balloch 
and his son John were to be paid salaries respec- 
tively of £40 and £20 in time of war, and in time 


of peace half these sums. In the event of the 
conquest of Scotland by the Earls of Ross and 
Douglas, the portion of the kingdom north of the 
Forth was to be divided equally between the Earls 
and Donald Balloch. Douglas was to be restored 
to his estates in the south. On the division of the 
north being completed, the salaries payable to the 
Macdonalds were to cease. ^ In case of a truce with 
the Scottish monarch, the Earl of Ross, Donald 
Balloch, and John his son, were to be included in 
it.^ This extraordinary treaty is so important in 
its relationship to the Family of the Isles that we 
give it here in full : — 

3 " FoEDus INTER Edwardum reqem Angliae et Johannbm 


jugando scotiam, et eam partiendo inter dictum 

comitem et comitbm douglas ; cum confirmationb 

Kegis Edwardi. 
Rex omnibus ad quos tkc. salutem. Notum facimus quod 
vidimus et intelleximus quedam appunctuamenta concordata 
conclusa et fiualiter determinata inter commissarios nostros ac 
ambassiatores commissarios et nuncios carissimorum consanguine- 
orum nostrorum. 

Johannes de Isle comitis Rossie et domini Insularum. 

Donaldi Balagh et 

Johannes de Isle filii et heredis ejusdam Donaldi 
sub eo qui sequitur tenore verborum.'^ 

1 Rymer'a Foedera, vol. XL, 483-87. Rotuli Scotite, vol. II., 407. 

* Hector Boece's History of Scotland, App. 393, 

^ Rotuli Scotise in Turri Londinensi, vol. II., pp. 405-7. 

^ League between Edward King of England and John Earl op 

Koss and Lord of the Isles concerning the Conquest of 

Scotland and the Division thereof between the said Earl 

OF Ross and the Earl of Douglas ; with the Confirmation 

OF Kino Edward. 

The King to all to whom, &c., salvation. We make it known that we have 

Been and understood that certain matters have been agreed upon, concluded 

and finally determined between our commissioners and the ambassadors, 

commissioners and messengers of our dearest cousins John of Isla Earl of lloss 

and Lord of the Isles and Donald Balloch and John of Isla son and heir of the 

eame Donald who follows after him in the order of the names. 



Laurence bishop of Duresme 

John erle of Worcestre 

Robert Botill' priour of Seint Johns of Jerusalem in 

John lord Wenlok and 

Maister Robert Stillyngton keper of the kynges 
prive seal 
deputees and comissaries to the most high and mighty prynce 
Kynge Edward the Fourth kyuge of Englonde and of Fraunce 
and lorde of Irlande 

Reynold of the Isles and 

Duncan archediaken of the Isles 
ambassiatours comissaries or messagers of the full honorable lorde 
John de Isle erle of Rosse and lorde of the Oute Isles to all thos 
that this presente \Yrityng endented shall see or here gretyng. 
Be it knowen that we the seid deputees commissaries and ambas- 
satours by vertu of power committed unto us whereof the tenures 
ben expressed and wreten under after longe and diverse tretes and 
communications hadd betwix us upon the maters that folwen by 
vertu of the seid power have appoynted accorded concluded and 
finally determined in maner and fourme as folweth FURST it is 
appointed accorded concluded and finally determined betwyx us 
that the seid John de Isle erle of Rosse Donald Balagh and John 
of Isles son and heire apparant to the seid Donald with all there 
subgettez men people and inhabitantes of the seid erldom of Rosse 
and Isles aboveseid shall at feste of Whittesontide next commyng 
become and be legemen and subjettes unto the seid most high 
and Christen prince Kynge Edward the Fourthe his heires and 
Buccessours kynges of Englond of the high and mighty prince 
Leonell sonne to Kynge Edward the Thridde lynially descendyng 
and be sworne and do homage unto hym or to such as he shall 
comitte power unto you at the seid fest of Whittesontide or after 
And in semble wyse the heires of the seid John th' erle Donald and 
John shall be and remaigne for ever subjettis and liegemen unto 
the seid Kynge Edward, his heires and successours kynges of 
Englonde as it is aboveseid yevinge unto his highnesse and his 
seid heires and successours as well the seid John th' erle Donald 
and John as theire heires and successours and eche of them verrey 
and trewe obeysaunce in obeinge his and there commaundementea 


and do all thyng that a trewe and feithfull subjette oweth to doo 
and bere to his soveryane and lige lord and as hit accordeth to his 
ligeauuce ITEM the seid John th' erle Donald and John and eche 
of them shall be alwaye redy after the seid feste of Whittesontide 
vipon convenable and resounable warnyng and commaundement 
yeven unto them by the seid most myghty prynce Edward kynge 
of Englonde his heires and successours kynges of Englonde of the 
seid Leonell in fourme aboveseid descendyng or be eny other on 
his or their behalf es haA'yng power therto to do diligente and 
efFectuall service with and to all them uttermost myght and power 
in suche werres as the seid most high and myghty prynce his 
heires and successours kynges of Englond as is above seid shall 
move or arreise or to moved or arreised in Scotlande or ayenste 
the Scottes in Irlande or ayenst the kynges ennemyes or rebelles 
there and in the same werres remaigne and continue with all ther 
aide myght and power in such wyse as they or eny of them shall 
have in commaundement by the seid high and myghty prince his 
heires and successours and as longe as it shall please hym or them 
ITEM the seid John erle of Rosse shall from the seid feste of 
Whittesontyde next comyug yerely duryng his lyf have and take 
for fees and wages in tyme of peas of the seid most high and 
Christen prince C mere sterlyng of Englysh money and in tyme of 
werre as longe as he shall entende with his myght and power in 
the said werres in maner and fourme aboveseid he shall have 
wages of CCli sterlyng of Englysh money yerely and after the rate 
of the tyme that he shall be occupied in the seid werres ITEM 
the seid Donald shall from the seid feste of Whittesontide have 
and take duryng his lyf yerly in tyme of peas for his fees and 
wages XXli sterlyng of Englysh money and when he shall be 
occupied and intende to the werre with his myght and power and 
in maner and fourme aboveseide he shall have and take for his 
wages yerly XLli sterlynges of Englysh money or for the rate of 
the tyme of werre ITEM the seid John soun and heire apparant 
of the said Donald shall have and take yerely from the seid fest 
for his fees and wages in the tyme of peas Xli sterlynges of 
Englysh money and for tyme of werre and his intendyng therto 
in manere and fourme aboveseid he shall have for his fees and 
wages yerely XXli sterlynges of Englysh money or after the rate 
of the tyme that he shall be occupied in the werre And the seid 
John th' erle Donald and John and eche of them shall have gode 
and sufficaunt paiment of the seid fees and wages as well for tyme 


of peas as of werre accordyug to thees articules aud appoyntementes 
ITEM it is appointed concluded accorded and finally determined 
that if it so be that hereafter tlie seid reaume of Scotlande or 
the more part therof be conquered subdued and brough to the 
obeissaunce of the seid most high and Christen prince and 
his heirs or successours of the seid Leonell in fourme 
aboveseide discendyng be th' assistence helpe and aide of 
the seid John erle of Rosse and Donald and of James erle 
of Douglas then the seid fees and wages for the tyme of peas 
cessyng the same erles and Donald shall have by the graunte of 
the same most Christen prince all the possessions of the seid 
reaume beyonde Scottyshe See they to be departed egally betwix 
them eche of them his heires and successours to holde his parte 
of the seid most Cristen prince his heires and successours for 
evermore in right of his croune of Englonde by homage and 
feaute to be done therefore ITEM if so be that by th'aide and 
assistence of the seid James erle of Douglas the seid reaume of 
Scoctlande be conquered and subdued as above'^then he shall have 
enjoye and inherite all his owne possessions landes and inheri- 
taunce on this syde the seid Scottyshe See that is to saye betwix 
the seid Scottyshe See and Englonde suche he hath rejoiced and 
be possessed of before this there to holde them of the seid most 
high and Cristen his heires and successours as is aboveseid for 
evermore in right of the coroune of Englande as well the said erl 
of Douglas as his heires and successours by homage and feaute to 
be done therefore ITEM it is appointed accordett concluded and 
finally determined that if it so be the seid most high and myghty 
prince the kynge after the seid fest of Whittesontide and afore 
the conquest of the reaume of Scottelande take any trewes or 
abstinaunce of werre with the kynge of Scottes then the seid erle 
of Rosse Donald and John and all their men tenantes officers and 
servantes and lordships landes tenementes and possessions whereof 
the same erle of Ross Donald and John or eny of them be nowe 
possessed within Scottland and the seid erldom of Rosse and also 
the isle of Arran shall be comprised within the seid trewes or 
abstinaunce of werre olesse then the said erle of Rosse signifie 
unto the high and myghty prince the kynge before Whittesontide 
next comyng that he woll in nowe wyse be comprised therein 
ITEM it is appointed accorded conclused and finally determyned 
that the seid John erle of Rosse Donald and John shall accepte 
approve ratifie and conferme all these presente articles appoynte- 


mentes accordes conclusions and determinations and thereunto 
gave thaire aggrement and assent and in writyng under there 
seeles of amies sende and delyvere it to the seid most Cristen 
kynge or his chaunceler of Englande afore the furst day of Juyll 
next comynge receyvynge att that tyme semblable tres of ratifi- 
cation of the seid appoyntementes to be made undre the grete 
seall of the seid most high and myghty prynce All these thinges 
in maner and fourme aboveseid we the seid commissiaries and 
ambassatours have appointed accorded concluded and finally 
determined and that they shall be trewly observed and kepte we 
permitte by vertue of our sevei-all powars and commissions yeven 
and made unto us whereof the tenures worde by worde ben such 
as folwen. 

Edwardus dei gratia Rex Angliae et Franciae et 
dominus Hibernie omnibus ad quos presentes 
litere pervenerint salutem. 
Sciatis quod nos de fidelitatibus et providis circumspectionibus 
Venerabilis px-ioris Laurentii Episcopi Dunolm' ac 

Carissimi consaunguinei nostri Johannis comitis Wygorn 
Necnon dilectorum et fidelum nostrorum Roberti Botill' prioris 
Sancti Johannis Jerusalem in Anglia 

Johannis Wenlok 
de Wenlok militis et Magistri Roberti Stillyngton legum doctoris 
custodis privati sigilli nostri 

plenius confidentes assignavinms et constituimus ipsos episcopura 
comitera priorem Johannem et Robertam ambassiatores commis- 
sariis sive nunciis sufficieutem potestatem sub eo consauguineo 
nostro comite Rossie in ea parte habitentibus necnon ad tractandum 
et coinmunicandum cum eisdem de et super cunctis materiis et 
negotiis nos et dictum consanguineum nostrum comitem Rossie 
tangentibus sive concernentibus ac de in materiis predictis pre- 
cedendis appunctuandis concordandis concludendis determinandis 
et finiendis ac appunctuamenta concordata conclusa determinata 
et finita per eosdem vice et nomine nostris in scriptis redigenda 
seu redigi facienda ac etiam sigillanda. Ceteraque omnia et 
singula in premissis et eorum dependentiis debita ut requisita 
concidenda et facienda et expedienda. Promittentes bona fide et 
verbo regio quod omnia et singula que in premissis vel circa ea 
per ambassiatores commissarios sive nuncios nostros predictos 
quatuor vel tres eorum appunctuata concordata conclusa deter- 
minata et finita fuerint rata grata firma stabiliter habebimus pro 


perpetuo. In cujus re testimonium has literas nostras fieri 

fecimus patentes. 

T. Me ipso apud Westminstrem octavo die 

Februarii anno regni nostri primo. Bagot.^ 

Johannes de Yle comes Rossiae dominus Insularum omnibus ad 
quos presentes litere pervenerint salutem. Sciatis quod nos de 
fideHtate et provida circumspectione consanguineorum nostrorum 

Konaldi de Insulis et 

Duncani Archedeaconi Insularum 
Plenius confidentes assignavimus et constituimus ipsos Ranaldum 
et Duncanum ambassiatores commissarios sive nuncios nostros 
speciales ad conveniendum cum escellentissimo principe Edwardo 
dei gratia rege Angliae et Franciae et domino Hibernie seu ejus 
ambassiatoribus commissariis sive nunciis sufficientem potestatem 
sub eodem excellentissimo principe Edwardo dei gratia rege 
Angliae et Franciae et domino Hibernie in ea parte habitentibus. 
Necnon ad tractandum et communicandum cum eisdem de et 
super cunctis materiis et negotiis nos et dictum excellentissimum 
principem tangentibus sive concernentibus ac de et in materiis 

^ Edward bt the Grace of God King of England and France 
AND Lord of Ireland to all to whom these present Letters 
shall have come — salvation. 
Know ye that we being fully confident of the faithfulness and prudence 
of the venerable prior Laurence Bishop of Durham, and our dearest cousin John 
Earl of Worcester, also of our dear and faithful Robert Botill, prior of St John 
Jerusalem in England, John Wenlok of Wenlok, Knight, and Master Robert 
Stillyngton, doctor, Keeper of our privy seal — have nominated and appointed 
these, the Bishop, Earl, prior John and Robert ambassadors, there being also 
commissioners or messengers possessing full power under our cousin Earl of 
Ross on that part, for treating and communicating with these same con- 
cerning and regarding all matters and affairs touching and relating to us and 
our said cousin the Earl of Ross and regarding the matters aforesaid to be 
proceeded with, appointed, agreed upon, concluded, determined, and ended, 
and that the points agreed upon, concluded, determined, and ended by these 
same, in turn and by name must be entered among our writs or must be 
drawn out and sealed, to be so entered. And the other mattfers, all and each 
in the premisses and their conclusions must as required be finished, carried 
out, and arranged. Promising in good faith and by our royal word that all 
and each of the matters in the premisses or bearing upon these as shall have 
been agreed upon, concluded, determined, and ended, whether by our 
ambassadors, commissioners, or messengers aforesaid, or by four or three of 
them, we shall hold as settled agreeable to us and firmly fixed for ever. 
In testimony of which we have caused these our letters patent to be written. 
Testified by myself at Westminster, the eighth day of February, in the 
first year of our reign. Bagot, 


predictis precedendis et appunctuandis concordandis concludendis 
determinandis et finiendis ac appunctuata concordata conclusa 
determinata et finita per eosdem vice et nomine nostris in scriptis 
redigendis sen redigi facere ac etiam sigillaudis. Ceteraque omnia 
et singula in premissis et eorum dependentiis debita et requisita 
considenda facienda et expedienda. Promittentes bona fide et 
christianitate qua astricti deo in hiis scriptis quod omnia et singula 
que in premissis vel circa ea per ambassiatores commissarios sive 
nuncios predictos vel unam eorum appunctuata concordata con- 
clusa determinata et finita fuerint rata grata firma et stabilia 
habebimus pro perpetuo. In cujus re testimonium has literas 
nostras fieri fecimus patentes. 

Ex castello nostro Ardtbornis decimo nono 
die niensis Octobris anno Domini millesimo 
quadringentesimo sexagesimo primo.^ 
In whittenesse whereof to that on' partie of these indentures 
delyvered and remaignyng towardes the deputees and com- 
missaries of the said high and myghty prynce Kynge Edward we 

^ John of Isla Earl of Eoss Lord of the Isles, to all to whom the present 
letters may come — salvation. Know ye that we, fully trusting in the faith- 
fulness and prudence of our cousins, 

Eonald of the Isles and 

Duncan Archdeacon of the Isles, 
have nominated and appointed these same Ranald and Duncan our special 
ambassadors, commissioners or messengers, to meet with the most excellent 
prince Edward by the grace of God King of England and France and Lord of 
Ireland, or his ambassadors, commissioners or messengers, having full power 
under the same most excellent prince Edward by the grace of God King of 
England and France and Lord of Ireland — on that part. Also for treating 
and communicating with these same concerning and with reference to all 
matters and affairs touching or relating to us and the said most excellent 
prince and concerning the matters aforesaid to be proceeded with and 
appointed, agreed upon, concluded, determined and ended — the matters 
appointed, agreed to, concluded, determined and ended by these same in turn 
and by name having to be entered among our writs or drawn out and sealed 
that they may be thus entered. And the rest all and each ought as required 
in the premisses and their conclusions to be finished, carried through and 
arranged. Promising in good faith and by the Christianity by which we are 
bound to God in these documents that all and each of the matters in the 
premisses or bearing upon them, appointed, agreed to, concluded, determined, 
and ended by the foresaid ambassadors, commissioners or messengers aforesaid 
or by one of them, we shall hold settled, agreeable to us, fixed and fast for 
ever. In testimony of which we have caused these letters patent to be 

At our Castle of Ardthornish, the nineteenth day of the mouth of 
October, the year of our Lord one thousand four hundred and sixty one, 


the seid Raynald and Duncan ambassitours and commissaries of 
the seid erle Rossie have putte our seales and signe manuelles. 

Writen att London' the xiij dey of Februer 

the yere of the birth of our Lorde 

MCCCCLXII and the furst year of 

the reigne of the high and myghty 

prince Kynge Eward the Fourth above 

Nos vero eadem appunctuamenta concordata conclusa et finaHter 
determinata ac omnia et singula in eisdem contenta et specificata 
rata et grata habentes eadem acceptamus approbamus ratificamus 
et confirmamus eisdemque nostrum assensum primiter et con- 
censum damns et adhibemus et in eisdem vigore robore et virtute 
remanere et haberi volumus ac si per nos appunctuata concordata 
conckisa ct tinahter de terminata fuissent necnon ea onuiia et 
singula ad omnem juris efFectum qui exinde poterit tenore pre- 
sentium innovamus. Promittentes bona fide et verbo regio nos 
dicta appunctuamenta concordata et conclusa et finaliter deter- 
minata omnia et singula in eisdem contenta quatiiius nos 
concernant pro parte nostra impleturos et observaturos imper- 
petuum. In cujns &c. 
T. R. Apud Westminstrem xvij die martii. 

Per breve de prevato sigillo et 
de data predicta auctoritate &c." ^ 

Such was the Treaty of Ardthornish, a diplomatic 
instrument most darinf^ in its conception and big 
with the fate of the Island Family. Considering the 
commanding position John already occupied, it is 

^ But we, holding these same points agreed to, concluded aud finally deter- 
mined, as well as all and each of the matters contained and specified in them, 
accept, approve, ratify and confirm them, and we give and adhibit our assent 
and consent in chief, and wish them to remain and be held in these same in 
their strength, force, and validity, as if they had been appointed, agreed upon, 
concluded, and finally determined by ourselves ; also, we renew all and each 
of these things with the full effect of law which shall henceforth exist in the 
tenor of these letters. Promising in good faith and by our royal word that 
for our part we shull fulfil and observe the said points agreed upon and con- 
cluded and finally determined in all and each of their contents so far as they 
may concern us, for ever. In testimony of which, &c. 
Royal certification — At Westminster, 17th day of March. 
In brief from the private seal and 
Ou the date aforesaid by authority, &c. 


strange he should have allowed himself to be 
entangled in a scheme so wild and perilous. He 
was already by far the most powerful noble in 
Scotland, with a vast territory and almost regal 
sway. But he seems to have been ambitious of 
acquiring still greater power and prestige. The bribe 
held out to him proved a strong temptation, and 
undoubtedly influenced his conduct in the step he 
took ; yet the scheme was so wild that we are 
amazed at the eagerness with which he entered 
into it, and at his simplicity in allowing himself to 
be blindly led into so hollow an alliance. It is 
plain that the scheme did not emanate from the 
brain of the Earl of Ross. On this, as on critical 
occasions before, John was under the controlling 
influence of wills stronger and more persistent than 
his own. It was the scheme of a bold and desperate 
man who was playing a hazardous game for tre- 
mendous odds. For the provisions of the Treaty of 
Ardthornish we are indebted mainly to the banished 
and forfeited Earl of Douglas. But there was 
another party to the contract who must not be 
overlooked. Donald Balloch was thoroughly imbued 
with the Celtic spirit, keen, restless, and eager, the 
determined foe from his early years of the Scottish 
State, and still in his declining years burning for 
dangerous and exciting adventures. From these 
and other circumstances we may well believe that 
his voice would have been loud for the league 
embodied in the Treaty of Ardthornish. 

This remarkable compact between the Lord of 
the Isles and the English King, with the Earl of 
Douglas as the moving spirit of the plot, implied 
the adoption of military measures to carry its 
provisions into effect. The events that followed 


almost immediately after the ratification of the 
Treaty seem to suggest an understanding between 
the parties that no time was to be lost in taking the 
contemplated action. On the side of the Earl of 
Ross proceedings were taken with almost precipitate 
haste. The two foremost Clan Donald warriors of 
the day were placed at the head of the vassals of 
Ross and the Isles. First in command was Angus 
Og, son of the Lord of the Isles, who now for the 
first time makes his appearance upon the arena of 
war, but who had already, though scarcely more 
than a boy, begun to show indications of the daunt- 
less courage, the unconquerable spirit which future 
years were more vividly to disclose. Second in 
command was Donald Balloch, the hero of Inver- 
lochy, a fight the memory of which was beginning 
to grow dim in the minds of the generation that 
witnessed it. 

The Lord of Dunnyveg and the Glens of Antrim 
had only once unsheathed his sword since he over- 
threw the Earl of Mar in Lochaber, but he was still, 
though past his prime, well nigh as formidable an 
antagonist as of old, always to be found where the 
hurricane of battle was brewing, now, as of yore, the 
harbinger of strife, the stormy petrel of Clan Donald 
warfare. Angus Og, destined to play the leading 
part in the decline and fall of the Lordship of the 
Isles, was a natural son of the Earl of Boss. The 
historian of Sleat, whether inadvertently or of set 
purpose, would make it appear otherwise, and says 
that Angus Og was the issue of a marriage with a 
daughter of the Earl of Angus. ^ There is no 
evidence that such a marriage ever took place, and 
John had no male issue by his wife, Elizabeth 
Livingston. The question is placed beyond dis- 

^ Hugh Macdouald in Collectanea de Eebus Albanicis, p. 315. 


pute by a charter which was afterwards given to 
John in confirmation of his possessions, and in which 
it was provided that, faiUng legitimate heirs male, 
the title and estates were to descend to his natural 
son Angus/ The mother of Angus is said to have 
been a daughter of Macphee of Colonsay, so that the 
heir of the Lordship of the Isles was of gentle if not 
legal origin. 

The army of the Isles, under the leadership of 
Angus Og and Donald Balloch, marched to Inver- 
ness, once more the theatre of warlike operations. 
Taking possession of the town and castle, the latter 
one of the royal strongholds in the north, they at 
once, in the name of the Earl of Boss, assumed 
royal powers over the northern counties, commanded 
the inhabitants and all the Government officers to 
obey Angus Og under pain of death, and to pay to 
him, as his father's lieutenant, the taxes that were 
exigible by the Crown. In this way did the Earl 
of Ross attempt to carry into immediate and forcible 
execution the provisions of the Treaty of Ardthornish. 
It is hardly credible that John would have taken a 
step so daring and extreme did he not expect that 
the English portion of the Treaty would have been 
carried out at the same time by the dispatch of a 
strong body of auxiliaries to form a junction with 
the Highland army. There is evidence that an 
English invasion of Scotland was contemplated at 
the time, and that apprehensions of its imminence 
prevailed in the Eastern Counties. Especially in 
the town of Aberdeen the Provost and inhabitants 
were warned to keep their town, sure intelligence 
having been received that an English fleet was on 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig. VII., No. 335. Acts of Pari., vol. II., p. 189-90. Had- 
diugtuu Collectious, vol. I., p. 336. 


the way to destroy not only Aberdeen but other 
towns upon the coast. ^ Had Edward IV. been able 
to support the action of the Earl of Ross in the 
North by throwing an army across the border in aid 
of the Earl of Douglas, it is quite possible that the 
State might have fallen, and Scotland have lost the 
independence for which she had made such heroic 
struggles. Fortunately for the Kingdom of Scot- 
land, this was not to be. The Wars of the Roses 
were still raging in the sister country, and the 
resistance of the heroic Margaret of Anjou to the 
pretensions of the House of York absorbed the 
energies of the reigning power. Edward IV. was 
unable to dispatch the expeditionary force to the 
assistance of the Highland insurgents, the scheme 
for the division of Scotland, after the manner pre- 
scribed in the Treaty of Ardthornish, came to naught, 
and the rebellion finally collapsed. 

What actually followed the campaign of Angus 
Og and Donald Balloch, whether they were caUed 
to account and subdued by force of arms, or whether 
matters were allowed to adjust themselves with- 
out any active measures being undertaken by the 
State, are questions upon which the annals of 
the age do not throw much light. It seems clear, 
however, that, whether through want of will or 
power, no decisive steps were taken to award to 
the Earl of Ross any punishment commensurate with 
his disloyalty. It must be remembered, however, 
that the full measure of the treason was very far 
from being known. The invasion of the northern 
counties, with the seizure of Inverness, and whatever 
hostilities accompanied the proclamation of sover- 

1 Buchanan, Lib. XII., c. 19. Note (3). 


eignty, must have come to the knowledge of the 
Government ; but the serious aspect of the whole 
affair, the negotiations embodied in the Treaty of 
Ardthornish, still remained a secret buried out of 
sight in the archives of the English Crown at 
Westminster. It needed but a favourable oppor- 
tunity for that explosive document to bring dismay 
and consternation to the minds of those involved. 




Events following Ardthornish Treaty. — Its Discovery. — Cause of 
Discovery. — Indictment. — Summons. — Forfeiture. — Expedi- 
tions against John. — He Submits. — Resignation. — Partial 
Re-instatement and New Honour. — Charter of 1476. — 
Sentiment in Isles. — Angus Og. — His Attitude. — Rebellion in 
Kuapdale. — Invasion of Ross. — Feud with Mackenzie. — 
Lagabraad. — Bloody Bay. — Abduction of Donald Dubh. — 
Raid of Athole. — The Probable Facts. — Angus' Reconciliation 
to his Father. — Assassination of Angus Og. — Alexander of 
Lochalsh. — Invasion of Ross. — Battle of Park. — John's Final 
Forfeiture and Death. 

The Earl of Ross does not appear to have suffered 
either in dignity or estate after the rebellion of 
1463. For at least twelve years after that maddest 
of engagements, the Treaty of Ardthornish, he 
pursued the even tenor of his way with little or no 
molestation from the Scottish State. That John 
maintained his position intact is evidenced by Crown 
confirmations of grants of land bestowed upon his 
brothers Celestine and Hugh. These twelve years, 
from 1463 to 1475, are years of well-nigh unbroken 
darkness so far as the Lordship of the Isles and the 
Earldom of Ross are concerned. The rebellion of 
1463, short-lived though it was, and comparatively 
little as we know of its details, left abundant seeds 
of future trouble. There is undoubted reason to 
believe that John was summoned to appear before 
the Parliament of 1463 to answer for his conduct 
under pain of forfeiture, but despite the threatened 


penalties, the Earl of Ross, whose love for these 
conventions seems never to have been strong, did 
not put in an appearance/ Whether it was that 
his command of the Scots tongue was limited, and 
he did not care to mix with the Southern nobles for 
that reason, or whether he ignored the jurisdiction 
of that august body, we know not, but certain it is 
that on almost all occasions he was represented at 
the Scottish Parliament by procurators, his proxy in 
1467 having been his armour-bearer, William, Thane 
of Cawdor. Owing to John's non-compearance at 
the Parliament of 1463, his case was postponed, and 
the Parliament adjourned to meet in the city of 
Aberdeen on the Feast of St John the Baptist the 
same year.^ Of neither of these Parliaments have 
any records survived, but subsequent proceedings 
clearly show that John still elected to remain in 
his Castle of Dingwall rather than respond to the 
summons of the High Court of the realm. That 
same year there is evidence that efforts were not 
awanting to bring the rebel to task, though these 
do not appear to have been conducted with much 
earnestness or resolution. Several Poyal Commis- 
sioners, including the Earl of Argyle and Lords 
Montgomery and Kennedy, and Treasurer Guthrie, 
came North to lay the royal commands before the 
Earl of Ross, for it is on record that expenses 
amounting to £12 10s 4d were allowed them for two 
days' sojourn at Perth on their way to Dingwall 
Castle.^ Definite knowledge of the result of this 
mission we do not possess. The probability is that 
John was neither punished nor forgiven, but was 
left, like Mahomet's cofiin, in a condition of suspense 
as to his standing with the Crown, and this leaving 

^ Asloan MS., 23-60. ^ Ibid. ° Exchequer Rolls ad tempus. 


of the matter undecided explains why, in after years, 
the Government was enabled to ^o back upon the 
delinquencies of 1463. Although the Treaty of 
Ardthornish was still a secret, the Government 
seems to have had sufficient evidence that John had 
been guilty of treason against the Crown by the 
assumption of royal prerogatives in the North, and 
the appropriation of taxes and revenues pertaining 
to the Crown alone. He and his brother Celestine 
were justly accused of having retained the Crown 
lands in 1462-3, as well as £542 5s 7d of the farms 
of Petty, Leffare, Bonnach, Ardmannach, the vacant 
See of Moray, &c,, wrongfully and without the 
King's warrant.^ It was probably no easy task for 
the Earl of Ross to prevent disturbances breaking 
out between the restless Islesmen by whom he was 
surrounded and the occupants of the lands adjacent 
to his territories. We find, in 1465, reckoning 
made of the wasting and burning of the lands of 
Kingeleye, Bordeland, Drumdelcho, Buchrubyn, 
Drumboye, Turdarroch, and Monachty, to the extent 
of £31,^ for all of which the Earl of Ross and 
his followers were held responsible. Quarrels were 
likewise breaking out occasionally betwixt the Earl 
of Boss and his neighbours in the East of Scotland. 
Thus, in 1473, and in the month of August, there is 
strife between himself and Alexander of Setouii 
regarding the lands of Kinmundy, in Aberdeenshire, 
so much so that the matter evokes the royal dis- 
pleasure, and an Act of Parliament is procured to 
provide for the punishment of the culprits, though 
we are not enlightened as to the nature of the 
penalty administered.^ A feud also arose with the 

1 Exchequer Rolls, vol. VI., p. 356. ^ jbjd^ p. 357. 

^ Acta Auditorum. 


Earl of Huntly in 1474, and this also was the theme 
of remonstrance by the King, who, in the month of 
March, sent letters to both Earls " for stanching of 
the slachteris and herschippes committit betwixt 
theer folkis."^ 

Whatever may have been John's relations to the 
Scottish Crown, on the one hand, or to his neigh- 
bours in the North and West, on the other, his 
intercourse with his own dependants seems to have 
been of the friendliest and most peaceful character. 
So true is this that beyond the granting of charters 
to some, and the confirmation of grants to others, 
the records of the period have almost nothing to say 
as to the relations between the superior and his 
vassals of the Earldom of Koss, while in the Lord- 
ship of the Isles, since the last outbreak of Donald 
Balloch, a wonderful and unwonted calm seems to 
have reigned from 1462 to 1475. All this is an 
indication that whatever may have been the foreign 
relations — if we may use the term — of the Earl of 
Ross and Lord of the Isles, there seems to have 
been harmony and concord between his subjects and 

At last the ominous quiet is broken, and all at 
once there is a great convulsion and upheaval. The 
Treaty of Ardthornish is exhumed, dug out of the 
oblivion to which for twelve years it had been con- 
signed, and in which, no doubt, its perpetrators 
prayed that it might for ever rest, and the rash and 
daring instrument, which aimed at the destruction 
of a great State, is thrust upon the notice of an 
astounded and indignant nation. The Scottish 
Government felt that the ship of State had been 
sailing among hidden yet dangerous rocks, and that 

1 Treasurer's Accounts, vol. I., 48. 


serious disaster had by no means been a remote 
contingency, and it was determined to take resolute 
and immediate action against the only party to the 
compact on whom the hands of the Executive could 
be laid. The Earl of Douglas was an outlaw beyond 
Scottish jurisdiction ; Donald Balloch was secure 
from danger amid the Antrim glens ; and so the 
Earl of Ross, perhaps the least culpable of the con- 
tracting parties, becomes the victim and scapegoat 
of the conspiracy. 

Highland historians do not afford us much assist- 
ance in tracing the causes which led to the disclosure 
of this treaty, a disclosure which was, to all appear- 
ance, a gross breach of faith on the part of the 
Power in whose archives the document must have 
been preserved. Yet the causes that led to the 
revelation of the secret may be estimated with 
tolerable accuracy, if not with absolute certainty. 
In 1474 Edward IV. was contemplating the invasion 
of France, and, in the circumstances, he deemed it 
his wisest policy to secure his frontiers at home by a 
treaty of friendship with the Northern Kingdom. 
A treaty was consequently drawn up, the main pro- 
vision of which appears to have been, that a contract 
of marriage should be entered into between the 
Prince of Scotland, son of James HI., and Cecilia, 
daughter of the English King, the subjects of this 
interesting arrangement having attained respectively 
to the mature ages of two and four years. Into the 
details of this international compact, which never 
came to anything, it is beside our present purpose to 
enter. We refer to it because it indicates new and 
friendly relations between the two countries, and 
because it would be impossible for Edward IV., 
under the conditions that had arisen, to continue 


the promises of support to the Earl of Douglas, or 
abide by a treaty which was a standing menace to 
the quiet and integrity of the sister land. There 
was nothing therefore more natural than that in the 
course of friendly negotiations between the two 
kingdoms, in 1474, the Treaty of Ardthornish should 
have issued out of its obscurity, and become the 
signal for hostile proceedings against the Earl. 

After the discovery of the Treaty, the Govern- 
ment seems to have lost little time in calling John 
of Isla to account for his twelve-year-old treason, 
and an elaborate process was instituted against him 
in the latter months of 1475. On the 20th 
November of that year. Parliament met, and an 
indictment containing a formidable record of his 
political offences was drawn up. In the forefront of 
the crimes of which he is accused stands the Treaty 
of Ardthornish, but other charges of treasonable con- 
duct are likewise included in the document. The 
various letters of safe conduct to English subjects 
passing to and fro between the two countries, the 
rebellion of 1463 and the imperative commands 
issued then to the King's lieges to obey his bastard 
son Angus on pain of death ; the campaign of Donald 
Balloch, his siege of Rothesay Castle, and his 
depredations in Bute and Arran, with the slaughter 
of many of the King's subjects, events of a much 
earlier date than the Treaty of Ardthornish ; in fact, 
the whole sum of John's offences from the beginning 
are all narrated with greater or less fulness. John 
himself, hereditary Sheriff of Inverness, being under 
the ban of the law, Alexander Dunbar of Westfield, 
Knight, Arthur Forbes, and the King's herald, are 
conjointly and severally appointed Sheriffs of Inver- 
ness, by special royal warrant for the legal execution 


of the summons. These emissaries of the law are 
commanded to present the summons personally to 
John, Earl of Ross, in presence of witnesses, and it 
is enjoined that this be done at his Castle of Ding- 
wall, but the prudent proviso is inserted, if access 
thereto should with safety he obtained. Failing this 
safe delivery of the citation at the Castle, it was 
provided that it should be made by public pro- 
clamation at the cross and market place of Inverness, 
while it bore that the Earl of Boss must appear in 
presence of the King at Edinburgh, at the next 
Parliament to be held there on the 1st December 
following. It is noticeable that, while the Parlia- 
ment which authorised the summons met on the 
20th November, 1475, the document was issued 
under the great seal at Edinburgh, on the last day 
of the previous September. It is evident that 
Parliament was simply called together to endorse 
what the royal prerogative had already enacted.^ 

The next step in the process was the execution of 
the royal summons, and this also took place before 
the meeting of Parliament on 20 th November. The 
copy of the execution of citation being drawn out, 
not as usual in Latin, but in the Scots tongue of the 
day, may here be quoted verbatim, though very 
much a repetition of what has gone before : — 

"The xvj day of Octobere zeire of oure Lorde J*^ iiii° Ixxv 
zeres I Unicorne pursewant and Sheriff of Innuerness in thus part 
specially constitiit be our souerain lord the King be these his 
letteres past to the Castell of Dingwail in Roisse and askit 
entrance to the presens of Johne Erie of Rosse and lorde of His 
the quhilk I couth no get and than incontinent at the zetts of 
samyn Castell I summond warnit and chargit peremptorly the 
said John erle of Rosse to compear personaly befor our souerain 
lord the King in his burgh of Edinburgh in his next pliament thar 

^ Acts of the Scottish Parliament, vol. II., p. 108. 


to be holdin the first day of the moneth of december next to cu 
with coutinuation of days to ansuer til our said souerain lorde 
hienes in his said parliament upon the tresonable comonyng with 
o\ir souerain lordes ennemys of yngland and for the tresonable 
liges and baudes mad be him with Edvarde King of Yngland and 
Inglysmen And for the tresonable comonyng with the tratour Sre 
James of Douglas sumtyme erle of douglas And for the tresonable 
help council fauore and supple gevin be him to the sayme 
tratour And for the tresonable gevin of save conductes to our 
souerain lordes ennymys of yngland And for the tresonable 
usui'pacione of ouere souerain lordes autorite in makin of his 
bastard sone a lieutennand to him within ouere souerain lordes 
Realme, and comittand powere to Justify to the dede oure 
souerain lordes lieges that ware in obedientis to him And for the 
tresonable connocacione of ouere souerain lordes lieges and 
sezeing of his castel of Roithissay in bute and birning slaing 
wasting and distrueying of oure souerain lordes lieges and 
landes of the He of bute efter the forme contenit in letteres And 
also to ansuere upone al uder crymys ofFensis transgressionis and 
tresonable dedes comittit and done be the said Johne erle of 
Rosse tresonably againe ouere souerain lorde and his Realme and 
til al ponctis and articulis contenit in thes letteres and efter the 
forme of the samyn And this execucione I maid befoir thir witnes 
donalde waitsone m°beth Thome donaldsone wil adamsone Johne 
of paryss and diuersis utheris And attour the samyn day befoir 
the samyne witnes 1 summond the said Johne to compere as 
said is in al forme and effect aboue writtyne And also the samyn 
day at the markat corsse of Inuernes I summonde be opin 
proclamacione the said Johne erle of Roysse in forme and effect 
aboue writtyne to ansuere till the punctis and al articulis contenyt 
in this summondes as said Is befor thir witnes Johne leffare henry 
finlaw bailzeis of the said burgh Johne of dunbare Archibald 
brothy and diuersis utheris In wittness of this my executione I 
have affixit my sele to this my Indorsyng day zeire and place 

befor writtin 

" Et sic est finis executionis" ^ 

Two other similar instruments containing weari- 
some repetitions of the summons and, to the non-legal 
mind, abounding in superfluities follow after the 
foregoing, the sum and substance of the enormous 

^ Acts of the Scottish Parhament, vol. II., p. 109. 


mass of verbiage being that John is cited to appear 
at Edinburgh before a Parliament to be held on the 
1st of December, 1475. In due course the Conven- 
tion of the Estates of Scotland met, and full 
certification was given that the Earl of Ross had 
been lawfully cited at the cross and market place 
both of Dingwall and Inverness, John not com- 
pearing, Andrew, Lord of Avondale, Chancellor of 
Scotland, by command of the King, charged him in 
presence of the assembled nobles with the high 
crimes and misdemeanours already fully detailed ; 
upon which it became the unanimous finding of 
Parliament that his guilt was established. Finally, 
judgment was given by the mouth of John Dempster, 
Judge for the time being of the Court of Parliament, 
that for the treason proven against him, John, Earl 
of Ross and Lord of the Isles, had forfeited his life 
as well as his dignities, offices, and possessions, 
which latter were thereby alienated not only from 
himself, but also from his heirs forever, and attached 
to and appropriated by the Crown. ^ 

These drastic proceedings of the Scottish Parlia- 
ment, were immediately followed by formidable 
preparations, to wring from the attainted noble by 
force what he would not voluntarily concede. Colin, 
Earl of Argyle, already scenting from afar the broad 
acres of the Island lordship, willingly adopted the 
role of public policeman, and accepted with alacrity 
of a commission to execute the decree of forfeiture 
which had recently been pronounced.^ It does not 
appear, however, that Argyle was entrusted with 
the reduction of the Earl of Poss to submission, for 
in the following May a strong expeditionary force 
was raised and divided into land and naval sections, 

^ Acta of Scottish Parliament, vol. II., p. 111. - Argyle writs, 


under the command of the Earls of Athole and 
Crawford respectively, for the invasion of John's 
extensive territories.^ As it turned out, forcible 
measures ceased to be necessary when, on the advice 
of Athole, the King's uncle, John at last agreed to 
make a voluntary submission and throw himself 
upon the royal mercy. Once more Parliament met, 
and on 1st July, 1476, John appeared before it with 
all the semblance of humility and contrition. On 
the intercession of the Queen and the express 
consent of the nobles, John was there and then 
pardoned and restored to all the honours and posses- 
sions he had forfeited. Apparently this investiture 
was only a form for enabling him to denude himself 
of a large portion of his inherited estate. The same 
day on which he was re-instated he made a voluntary 
resignation of the Earldom of Ross and Sheriffdom 
of Inverness and Nairn, with all theii- j)ertinents, 
castles, and fortalices to the King. He did so, the 
record says, of his own pure and free accord ; but 
we may well believe that this renunciation was the 
condition of his being restored to favour. On the 
same day the King confirmed to Elizabeth, Countess 
of Ross, all the grants of lands within the Earldom 
formerly made to her by the Crown, as not being 
included in the foregoing renunciation.^ John, 
having made these concessions, received in recogni- 
tion of his obedience a new distinction. He still 
remained John de He, and retained the ancient 
heritage of his house with the old historic dignity, 
the Lordship of the Isles, which no Scottish monarch 
had bestowed and, from the Celtic standpoint, none 
could take away ; but the ancient honour, with all 

^ Chronicle of the Earls of Ross, pp. 15, 16. 
^ Acts of the Scottish Parliament, vol. II., p. 113. 


the proud memories it enshrined, was now combined 
with the gaudy tinsel of a brand new, spick and span 
title of Baron Banrent and Peer of Parliament. 

It soon appeared that the King and Government 
were not completely satisfied with the reduction 
which had thus been made in the power and 
possessions of the Chief of Clan Donald. On the 
26th of July, the same month that witnessed his 
surrender, resignation, and partial reinvestiture, he 
received a formal charter^ for all the territories 
which it was resolved by the Government he should 
be peimitted to retain. This charter contains evi- 
dence that John was deprived of territories other 
than those he gave up in his resignation of 1st 
July, namely, the lands of Kintyre and Knapdale, 
with which exception all the other estates which 
belonged to him in the Lordship of the Isles 
were allowed to remain in his possession. The 
historian of Sleat connects the loss of these 
lands with certain dealings which John had with 
Colin, Earl of Argyle, and while the details of his 
story do not seem very probable, there is every 
likelihood that that wily and unscrupulous nobleman 
and courtier may have had something to do with 
that unfortunate occurrence. This charter of 1476 
contained other important provisions connected with 
the transmission of the still important possessions 
and honours of the House of Isla. John had no 
legitimate male issue, but the family succession was 
secured to his natural son Angus, and failing him, 
to his natural son John and their heirs after them, 
failing legitimate issue of their father's body. 

It is thus plain that the situation, however 
disastrous, was not withoiit its compensations, and 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig. VIII., No. 132. 


that John issued out of the terrible ordeal in which 
the Treaty of Ardthornish placed him, with as little 
loss of outward estate as could possibly have been 
expected in the circumstances. Others not more 
guilty had lost life and property. The comparatively 
fortunate result may be attributed, less to his own 
sagacity and force of character, than to the leniency 
of the Crown, and contemporary records are pretty 
clear in showing that, in the eyes of the King, blood 
was thicker than water, and that John's kinship to 
the royal line of Scotland had much to do with the 
large measure of clemency that was displayed. 
Had John been a stronger man than he was, with 
the political calibre of his namesake " the good," or 
had he possessed the lofty qualities of his father 
and grandfather, he might either have avoided the 
pitfalls that lay in his path, or made a better fight 
for the interests at stake when the liour of trial 
came. But John, even discounting the forces he 
had to contend with, was the weakest potentate of 
his line, and there must be something after all in 
the verdict of Hugh Macdonald, that he was a 
" meek, modest man. . . . more fit to be a 
churchman than to rule irregular tribes of people." 
Taking all these things into consideration, the 
position in which John found himself after the con- 
vulsion of 1475-6 was still not unworthy of the 
traditions of his house ; and the family of Isla, 
though the glory of their territorial position was 
much bedimmed, still occupied one of the highest 
places among the nobles of the land. It also 
appeared as if an era of peace and friendship with 
the Crown was beginning to dawn upon the House 
of Macdonald when, not long after the reconstruction 
of John's estate, his son Angus married a daughter 


of that eminent Scottish courtier, Colin, Earl of 
Argyle. That instead of a time of peace, a period of 
almost unprecedented turmoil and conflict was at 
hand, events were soon to show. 

The scant records of the time distinctly prove 
that the large sacrifice of his status and possessions, 
which the head of the Clan Donald had been com- 
pelled to make, proved exceedingly unpopular among 
those chieftains and vassals who were directly 
descended from the family of the Isles. The exalted 
station of the head of the House of Somerled shed a 
reflected lustre, not only on the chiefs of the various 
branches, such as the Clanranalds, the Sleats, the 
Keppochs, and others, but upon every individual 
who bore the name, and in whose veins ran the 
blood of Macdonald, and who exulted in the prestige 
and renown of his chiefs. For many ages the Lords 
of the Isl ?s had represented the ancient Celtic spirit 
and social life in Scotland, which outside their 
influence had been rapidly disappearing, and despite 
the paramount and growing power of the Scottish 
national system, these potentates had continued to 
maintain, and even to enlarge, their territories. 
Hence the idea was bound to prevail and gather 
force, that the Lord of the Isles, in surrendering 
great interests without afibrding his devoted vassals 
the chance of striking a blow in defence, had failed 
to keep untarnished the name and honour of his 
clan. Tlie historian of Sleat has recorded that a 
chief cause of John's unpopularity, during the days 
of his undiminished greatness, among his Clan 
Donald vassals, lay in his improvident grants of 
land to the chiefs of other clans who were vassals of 
the Isles, such as the Macleans, Macleods, Maoneills, 
and others. All these, however, occupied extensive 


tracts of territory in feu from John's predecessors, 
and it does not appear from the evidence of history 
that John was in this respect so much more lavish 
than his sires, or that he to a large extent 
impoverished the heritage of his Family. In the 
eyes of those who sighed over the fading glory of 
his House, the gravamen of his offence consisted in 
his not only parting with the Earldom of Ross, 
which was, after all, but a recent possession of the 
Island Family, but what was perhaps more galling 
to the amour j^^^opre of the Clan, his tamely giving 
up the patrimonial lands of Kintyre and Knapdale, 
the heritage of the Clan Cholla from far distant 
times. This was undoubtedly the universal and 
deeply seated sentiment of his Clan — a sentiment 
not only in itself excusable, but springing from a 
just self-respect, and burning as it did with a fiery 
glow in the bosom of many a valiant clansman, it 
needed only a leader or head to give it fitting and 
powerful expression. 

It is equally intelligible that the other vassals 
should have regarded the crisis from a somewhat 
different point of view. The clans other than Clan 
Donald, who held their lands from John, had greatly 
increased in power and dignity under the kindly 
sway of the Lords of the Isles. The loss of sway 
by their superior did not, however, imply their 
decadence. On the contrary, the greatness of the 
Family of the Isles overshadowed their attempts at 
self-assertion, and the signs of a new order of things, 
in which they might rival the historic house in pro- 
perty and influence, were naturally not unwelcome. 
Thus there came to be a parting of the ways between 
those clans that held their territories, less on account 
of ties of kinship, and more by the bonds of feudal 


tenure, and those other tribes who regarded the 
Lord of the Isles, not merely as the superior of their 
lands, but as the acknowledged head of their race. 
No doubt these other clans, forming as they did a 
component part of the Island lordship, were still 
deeply interested in the preservation of the Celtic 
system which that lordship represented, and, as a 
matter of fact, we find them in after years fighting 
strenuously for its restoration. Yet at this parti- 
cular crisis these clans were undoubtedly less zealous 
for the maintenance of the honour and glory of the 
House of Isla than the Clan Donald itself, and that 
most probably for the reasons that have been 
assigned. Hence we find them adhering to the 
Lord of the Isles in his attitude of concession and 
submission, while the Clan Donald, eager for the 
maintenance of the ancient power of the Family, 
sympatliised with a policy of greater boldness and 
less compromise, while they found in Angus Og, the 
son and heir of John, the hero and exponent of their 

We are far from giving an unqualified assent to 
the verdict of previous writers who have dwelt uj)on 
the career and character of Angus, All modern 
historians who have discussed the theme, from 
Gregory^ — who says that the violence of his temper 
bordered on insanity — down to the latest historian 
of the Clan, have limned his portrait with brushes 
dipped in darkest hues. To say the least of it, the 
materials for the formation of any such judgment 
are of the scantiest. That Angus behaved with 
brutal violence to his father, is a statement that has 
been accepted upon the sole authority of the historian 
of Sleat, who has circulated not a few myths in 

^ Highlands and Islands, p. 54. 


connection with the Clan of which he writes. The 
tradition of filial impiety he has embodied in the 
strange tale, that Angus Og in his family residence 
at Finlaggan drove his father out of seven sleeping 
apartments successively, at last compelling him to 
take shelter under cover of an old boat for the night, 
and that next morning, on returning to the house, the 
old man uttered maledictions against his son.^ A 
legend such as this, in which, like all legend, there 
may be a germ of truth, would need strong con- 
firmatory evidence to make it credible in all its 
improbable details, and may very well hav^e been 
propagated by the vassals of the Isles other than 
Clan Donald, who supported the yielding policy of 
John, and were antagonistic to the stronger attitude 
of his son. That in the circumstances which led 
Angus in public matters to oppose his father, 
regrettable scenes may have occurred, angry words 
been spoken, and stormy interviews taken place by 
which the two became estranged, may freely be 
admitted. That Angus was hot tempered and even 
violent, in an age when the Pagan virtues of courage 
and determination were more esteemed than the 
Christian graces of patience and self-restraint, 
especially in a fierce and warlike community, need 
not be denied; but that his fiery temper partook of 
the insanity and unreasoning fury which historians 
one after another have described, there is really no 
evidence to prove. It is not surprising that the 
circumstances of his family and race, and the 
depressed condition into which they had fallen 
under his father's reign, proved vexing to a proud 
and resolute spirit, and if it is borne in mind that 
his eflbrts were all along directed towards the re- 

'■ Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis. 


building of the ruined fabric of the family state, 
his conduct will appear intelligible, and from his 
particular standpoint worthy of praise. 

Whatever estimate may have been formed of 
Angus Og by the outside world — and, no doubt, 
he proved himself a terror to his foes — he was 
certainly a great favourite with those of his name 
and lineage. Not only did they esteem his heroism 
and regard him as the restorer of their pristine 
greatness, but they loved him for his own sake. 
He possessed the popular manners and generous 
impulses of his race. He was open-handed and 
liberal with his means, and while he was brave as 
a lion on the field of battle, he followed with zest 
those sports and recreations with which even the 
most warlike beguiled the tedium of peace. He 
was a keen lover of the chase, and his unbounded 
hospitality in the banquetting hall was affectionately 
remembered in after times. He also seems to have 
possessed the same pleasing aspect and luxuriant 
flowing locks which were characteristic of his scrip- 
tural prototype — the rebellious son of David. ^ Such 
was unquestionably the verdict of his contemporary 
clansmen, and their devotion was evinced by the 
unanimous support accorded him in all his under- 
takings. Such could hardly have been the case 
had Angus Og been the deep dyed villain whom 
certain historians have portrayed. 

There is very great uncertainty as to the sequence 
of events during the years that followed the for- 
feiture and partial restoration of John, Lord of the 
Isles. Down to the fall of the Lordship of the Isles, 
chronological difficulties abound. There is evidence, 
however, that from 1476 onward, Angus Og, sup- 

^ Poem by John of Knoydart in the Dean of Lismore's book. 



ported by the general sentiment of the Clan, resisted 
what with some reason was considered his father's 
pusillanimous surrender. Undoubtedly the begin- 
ning of the long series of troubles, which filled the 
remaining years of the history of the Lordship of the 
Isles, was associated with John's deprivation of the 
lands of Knapdale and Kintyre. Castle Swin, in 
North Knapdale, long ago the scene of Alexander 
of Isla's discomfiture by Bruce, and destined in a 
future century to play a part in the annals of the 
Clan, was from 1476 to 1478 the scene of operations 
evidently carried on for the restoration of the sur- 
rounding territory to the family from which, in the 
opinion of its vassals, it had been unrighteously 
diverted. Whether the Lord of the Isles had been 
art and part in the rebellious proceedings or not, he 
was held responsible for what was done, and the 
following summons issued to him in 1478 contains an 
account of the hostilities which called for the 
attention of the Government : — • 

"Parliament held in Edinburgh 6th day of April, 1478. 
" The seventh day of the moneth of Aprile the secund day of 
the said Parliament Johnne lord of the His lauchfully personali 
and peremptoiirli summond to the said day to ansuer to owre 
souerain lorde the King in his said parliament for his tresonable 
assistence covmsale fauoures help and supportacioune geveing to 
his Rebellis and tratoures being In the Castell of castelsone^ And 
for art and part of the tresonable stuffing of the said Castell with 
men vitalis and Arm is for weire And for the tresonable art and 
part of the holding of the said Castell contrare to the Kinges 
maieste. And for his manifest Rebellioun agane the King oure 
souerain lord making weire apoune his lieges Attoure his forbid- 
ding And for supportacioune and Resetting of the Kingis Rebellis 
donald gorme and Neile Makneile and thair complices the quhilkes 
dali Invades the Kinges lieges and distrois his landes. And for 
uther tresouns transgressionis and Rebelliouns again oure said 

■* Castle Swin, 


soueraiu lordes maieste wro* and committit. The said lord being 
oft tymes callit and not comperit the summonds being lauchfull 
tyme of day biding thereafter Ouer souerain lord with the 
avise of the thre estatis continewis the said cause and accioun of 
summondis maid uppoune the said Johnne of Islis to the secund 
day of the moneth of Juin nixt to cum with contlnuacioune of 
dais to his parliament to be haldin at his burgh of Edinburgh 
And to begyn the first day of this moneth of Juin forsaid w* 
continuatione of dais. 

" In the sammyn forme strinth and effect as it now is." ^ 

The opinion has been advanced that a second 
forfeiture ensued as a consequence of the rebelHon 
which the foregoing citation records, and that, 
similar to the first, it was soon followed by John's 
second reinstatement in his property. The evidence 
for this belief is contained in a charter of 16th 
December, 1478, containing very nearly the same 
provisions as that of 1476. Had not the forfeiture 
taken place a second time, it is supposed that this 
re-grant would have been unnecessary, both charters 
having been given under the hand of James III., 
and neither requiring confirmation save in such cir- 
cumstances as we have described. It is not clear, 
however, that any such forfeiture and restoration 
took place in 1478, or that the charter of that year 
contains proof of such. As the tenor of tliat docu- 
ment shows, there is simply a confirmation by the 
King, now having attained his majority, of the 
grant made by him, as a minor,^ to John, Lord of 
the Isles, in 1476. In other respects, both charters 
are in identical terms. Similar provision is again 
made for continuing the family succession through 
Angus Og, and as John, the second son of the Lord 
of the Isles, is not mentioned in the deed, we 
conclude that he died in the interval. It seems 

1 Acts of Scottish Parliament, vol. XH., p. 115. 


probable that John satisfied the Government that 
the irregularities complained of had been perpetrated, 
if not without his knowledge, at anyrate contrary to 
his wishes, and that he was successful in procuring 
pardon for his son, Angus Og, who was now 
beginning to display decided symptoms of unwilling- 
ness to accept of the situation created by the 
misfortunes of his father. 

From 1478 to 1481 a fair condition of tran- 
quillity seems to have prevailed in the Highlands 
and Islands generally. The Government seem to 
have been so convinced of the loyalty of John of 
Isla. that in the latter year large tracts of land in 
Kintyre, formerly in his possession, were now 
re-conveyed by royal charter for his life-time, as an 
acknowledgment of faitliful service. It may be of 
interest to some of our readers if the places desig- 
nated in this charter are here detailed. They are 
as follows : — 

"The 12 merklands of Kille'wnane, the 6 merklands of Owgill, 
Auchnaslesok, Acheucork and Kenochane, the 9 merklands of the 
two Knokreuochis, Glenmorele, Altnabay, BaduflP, et Areakeauch ; 
the 5 merklands of the two Tereferguse and Largbane ; the 3 
merklands of Kynethane and Hening ; the 6 merklands of the two 
Knokantis and Calybole ; the 5 merklands of Lossit and Glen- 
hawindee ; the 4 merklands of Balleygrogane and Cragok ; the 8 
merklands of Catadill, Gertmane, Gartloskin, Bredelaide, and 
Keppragane ; the 2 merklands of Balleubraide ; the 4 merklands 
of Kilsolaue ; the 2 merklands of Achnaclaich ; the 2 merklands 
of Teridonyll ; the 1 merkland of Lagnacreig ; the 1 merkland of 
Kerowsovre ; the 1 merkland of Gartloskin ; the 3 merklands of 
Glenraskill ; the 2 merklands of Glenvey ; the 4 merklands of 
Browneregyn, Drumtyrenoch, Dalsmerill, Lagnadaise, and Enyn- 
cokaloch : with the half of the 1 merklands of Kildallok and 
LoDochane ; the half of the 2 merkland of EUerich and Arron- 
arroch ; the 13 merklands of Cralekill, Macharanys, Darbrekane 
and Clagkeile ; claimed by Maknele, lying in the lordship of 
Kintyre and sheriffship of Tarbert : — And also he granted to the 


said John for the whole term of his life the lands underwritten, 
viz. : — the 12 merklands of Arvmore : the 21 merklands of 
Owragag, AchtydownegaU, Scottomrl, Drummalaycht, Downskeig, 
the Lowb, Lemnamwk, Gartwaich ; the 31 merklands of Barmore, 
Garalane, Achnafey, Strondowr, Glenmolane, Gleuraole, Largbanan, 
Barnellane, Kowildrinoch, Glannafeoch, Ardpatrick, Ardmenys, 
Largnahouschine, Forleyngloch, Crevyr, and Drumnamwkloch ; 
the 4 merklands of Kilmolowok ; the 2 merklands of Drumdresok ; 
the 4 merklands of Schengart; the 4 merklands of the two 
Bargawregane ; the 2 merklands of Clachbrek ; the 4 merklands 
of Barloukyrt ; the 1 merkland of Altbeith ; the 1 merkland of 
Cragkeith ; the 27 merklands of Achetymelane, Dowynynultoch, 
Renochane, Kilcamok, Gartnagrauch, and Ormsay claimel by 
Maklane and Maknele and lying iu the lordship of Knapdale and 
sheriffdoms of Tarbert.''^ 

No sooner, however, did matters seem to be 
settlingr down than we find Ancfus Og; and his 
clansmen once more launching the thunderbolts of 
war. For the events of the period at which we 
have now arrived, and embracing a long term of 
vears, we have little to guide us beyond the 
unreliable, conflicting, and exaggerated accounts 
which have been handed down to us by family 
historians, and we are like mariners on an unknown 
sea, the chart for which is blurred and dim, and the 
compass disturbed bv the neighbourhood of magnetic 
influences. Out of these materials it seeiiis hopeless 
to construct a clear, consistent, or intelligible nar- 
rative. In one MS. history of the Mackenzies. 
Anofus Oe: is made to fio^ht a battle which took 
place after his death ; while his uncle Celestine, who 
died in 1473, is killed at the battle of Park in 1491. 
The battle of Lagabraad, in which the Mackenzies 
were defeated bv Angrus Ogr, has failed to find a 
record in the chronicles of that family, while the 
battle of Park, in which the Macdonalds were 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. II., US5. 


worsted, is honoured with particular and detailed 
notice. Such being the character of the records 
with which we have to deal, it is obvious that great 
caution has to be observed in separating fact from 

On the whole, there is no reason to doubt that 
the invasion of Ross by Angus Og took place in 
1481, nor is there any improbability in the story 
that it sprung out of one of those family feuds with 
which the history of the Highlands so largely 
abounds, though doubtless other and deeper motives 
may have been at work. On the forfeiture of the 
Earldom of Ross in 1475, the Mackenzies, who had 
previously been vassals of Macdonald, became 
vassals of the Crown, and as such, began to assume 
a certain measure of territorial dignity and import- 
ance. About that time, or shortly thereafter, 
Kenneth Mackenzie, son and heir to Alexander 
Mackenzie of Kintail, or as he was known in his 
day, Alastair Io7iraic,^ married Lady Margaret of 
the Isles, daughter of John of Isla, and half- 
sister to Angus Og. The lady is said to have 
been blind of an eye, and her value as an eligible 
bride was thereby greatly diminished in the 
matrimonial market. Yet there is no doubt that 
Kenneth Mackenzie, or, as he afterwards came to be 
known, Coinneach a Bhlair,^ without any disparage- 
ment to his dignity, was considered to have made a 
brilliant match in marrying a daughter of the House 
of Isla, even with so serious a facial disfigurement as 
the loss of one of her eyes. Their married life was 
neither long nor happy, and it is clear that Kenneth's 
conception of conjugal fidelity was in no wise in 
advance of the practical ethics of his day. The 

^ Meaning Alexander the upright ^ Kenneth of the Battle, meaning Park. 


story goes that Angus Og was in the North, living 
in the castle of Balconie, in the parish of Kiltearn, a 
house which, with the surrounding lands, appears to 
have been left in possession of the Countess of 
Ross after the forfeiture of the earldom, and thus 
continued a residence of the Macdonald Family in 
that region. Angus, true to his reputation for 
hospitality, gave a feast to the old vassals and 
retainers of his family, no doubt with the object of 
ingratiating himself with them, in view of possible 
designs in the future. Balconie Castle was under- 
going repairs, and the guests were insufficiently 
provided with sleeping accommodation. Macdonald 
was compelled, in consequence of this deficiency, to 
arrange some of the outhouses as sleeping apart- 
ments for his friends. Maclean of Duart, Macdonald's 
chamberlain, offered to accommodate the redoubtable 
Kenneth in the kiln, deeming that, as a friend of the 
family, such a liberty might be taken. Kenneth, 
with the irascibility bred of an undue sense of self- 
importance, considered his dignity grossly insulted 
by the bare suggestion of such an idea, and fetching 
a blow with all the might of his fist, struck Maclean 
in the ear and felled him to the ground. The savage 
and gratuitous assault was felt to be a blow no less 
aimed at their chief than at his vassal, and the Clan 
Donald blood rising, weapons began to be handled. 
Kenneth and his retinue, deeming it the more 
prudent course to eschew the festivities, immediately 
took to their heels. Finding a number of boats on 
the shore below the house, they sank all but one, in 
which they crossed to the Black Isle, thus for the 
time being baffling all pursuit. Next day Kenneth 
found his way to Kinellan, and was immediately 
followed by a threatening message from Angus Og, 


commanding himself and his father and household to 
quit the place within twenty-four hours, giving the 
Lady Margaret liberty to move in a more leisurely 
manner, as best suited her convenience. Kenneth 
was of course highly incensed on receiving such a 
message, and returned an indignant answer, but 
meanwhile commenced his reprisals by the cowardly 
device of wreaking vengeance upon his unoffending 
wife. The method of his revenge has done service 
in tales of later times, but there is reason to believe 
that Coinneach a Bhlair deserves all the discredit 
of being the original inventor of the cruel insult. 
He sent his wife home to Balconie riding on a one- 
eyed horse, attended by a one-eyed servant, followed 
by a one-eyed dog. Soon thereafter he took, with 
no ceremony, a lady of the family of Lovat to wife, 
showing the free and easy manner in which the 
nuptial knot was sometimes tied and loosened in 
these olden days. 

The proud scion of the family of Isla could ill 
brook the additional insult so savage and deliberate 
in its conception. The grotesqueness of the 
monocular retinue evinced a cruelty and malice 
which could be interpreted in no other light than a 
wanton and deliberate insult not only to Lady 
Margaret but her whole kith and kin. Angus Og 
was determined to be avenged upon Mackenzie ; but 
it soon appeared that the private feud was but the 
pretext for more extensive designs, the invasion and 
forcible acquisition of the whole Earldom of Ross. 
With this in view, Angus collected a large force in 
the Isles, as well as in those regions of the mainland 
where the Macdonald influence was still pre- 
dominant. The Keppochs, Glengarrys, and many 
other clansmen from the Isles rallied to his standard, 


and with a formidable force he set out for Boss. 
The Government, by this time realising that they 
were face to face with a rebellion of some magnitude, 
commissioned the Earl of Athole to march against 
and subdue the Islesmen. That nobleman, putting 
himself at the head of the Northern Clans, including 
the Mackenzies, Mackays, Brodies, Frasers, and 
Bosses, took the field against the Western host. 
The two armies met at a place called Lagabraad, 
and a sanguinary battle was fought, which resulted 
in the triumph of Angus Og and the utter rout of 
his opponents. There were slain of Athole's army 
517 men, the chief of the Mackays was taken 
prisoner, while Athole and Mackenzie narrowly 
escaped with their lives. ^ So far as we can gather 
amid so much uncertainty as to the actual sequence 
of events, this battle was fought about 1483. It 
proved that Angus Og, as a brave and accomplished 
warrior, was second to none of his race, and that if 
he had received the possessions of his house intact 
he would have died sooner than surrender them. 

Soon after Lagabraad, the Government gave 
instructions to the Earls of Huntly and Crawford 
to lead a new expedition against this formidable and 
enterprising rebel ; but it is not clear whether they 
took hostile action or did so with complete success. 
We are equally in the dark as to the result of 
Angus' victory in Boss, or whether he was able to 
maintain his hold upon any part of that extensive 
region. The next time light falls upon this obscure 
period we find Angus in the Isles when the Earls of 
Argyll and Athole have brought about an interview 
between himself and his father for the purpose, it is 
said, of effecting a reconciliation. Well might father 

^ Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis. 


and son, like the Trojans of old, fear the Greeks 
when they came with gifts, and it is not strange 
though under such auspices meek-eyed peace would 
not descend. The old lord was dominated by the 
party of the Court, Angus commanded the steadfast 
devotion of the Clan, and with a record of 
triumphant success behind him he was not likely to 
yield to the representations of the Government 
without the retrocession of some at least of the 
rights that had been surrendered. It would appear 
that the Lord of the Isles had been consistently 
loyal in his subjection to the Crown since 1476, and 
that the disturbances that took place subsequently, 
were regarded as being caused by his warlike son. 

When the curtain next rises upon the dramatis 
personcB in the Isles, Angus is on the eve of the 
battle of Bloody Bay. Once more the Earls of 
Argyll and Athole undertook to subdue the un- 
daunted rebel, and prepared an expedition for the 
purpose. The lords and chief men of the Isles, 
those favouring a policy of concession and those 
that supported the attitude of Angus, sailed in their 
galleys up the Sound of Mull, and ranged along the 
opposite side of that beauteous waterway — one of 
the fairest scenes of which the Western Highlands 
can boast — prepared for the internecine warfare. 
The combination against Angus Og had been 
organised by the two nobles whose names appear 
so prominently in the annals of those years ; but 
when the day of battle came they seem to have 
kept at a safe distance. Thus it came to pass 
that in this fight of saddest omen, the most noted 
naval battle in the Isles since the davs of Somerled, 
in which the ancient Lordship of the Isles was being 
rent in twain, the Lord of the Isles was left in 


command of the force which was to engage the 
warriors of his race and name under the leadership 
of his own son. The battle fought in the neighbour- 
hood of Tobermory was fiercely contested and 
sanguinary. Little is known of the details of this 
memorable engagement beyond what has been 
preserved by the historian of Sleat. Angus Og's 
galleys were drawn up on the north side of 
Ardnamurchan, and detained by stress of weather 
for a space of five weeks. At the end of that time 
the laird of Ardgour was observed sailing up the 
Sound, and he, on observing Angus Og and his 
fleet, at once displayed his colours. Donald Gallach, 
son of Hugh of Sleat, and Ranald Bane, son of Allan 
MacKuari, chief of Moidart, were in the company 
of Angus Og, and they steered towards Maclean's 
galley. This was the signal for the opposing force 
coming to the assistance of Ardgour, conspicuous 
among the rest being William Macleod of Harris. 
Ranald Bane grappled Macleod's galley, while one 
of Ranald's company, Edwin Mor O'Brian by name, 
piit an oar in the stern-post between the helm and 
the ship, which immediately became unmanageable, 
and was captured with all on board. Macleod was 
mortally wounded, and died shortly afterwards at 
Dun vegan. Maclean of Ardgour, who was taken 
prisoner, had a narrow escape for his life, Angus 
Og is said bo have suggested hanging, and this 
would probably have been his end were it not 
that the Laird of Moidart, with a touch of humour, 
interceded for him on the ground that, if Maclean's 
life was taken, he himself would have no one to 
bicker with. This view seems to have commended 
itself to the leader, and on Ardgour taking the oath 
of fealty he was spared, presumably to save Clan- 


ranald from too monotonous a life.^ Here we are 
afforded but a glimpse of an incident in this famous 
sea figlit, the result of which was the discomfiture 
of Angus Og's opponents and his own secure estab- 
lishment as the Captain of the Clan Donald. So 
far as we can calculate without accurate data, the 
Battle of Bloody Bay was fought in 1484.^ 

Fateful events followed each other in rapid 
succession during these later years of the Lordship 
of the Isles, and very shortly after this victory of 
Angus Og, an incident occurred which aggravated 
the enmity between the opposing parties, and 
became a fruitful cause of trouble for many years 
to come. It is not to be forgotten that the agents 
in provoking this outburst of renewed bitterness 
were the two noblemen who, a few short months 
before, are alleged to have done their utmost to 
bury the hatchet of strife. Angus Og, as has 
already been stated, was married to a daughter 
of Colin, Earl of Argyle, probably about 1480, and 
at the time of the battle of Bloody Bay this lady, 
and an infant son Donald, were living in the family 
residence at Finlaggan. The Earl of Athole, with 
the connivance and assistance of Argyle, who 
furnished him with boats, crossed secretly to Isla, 
stole the infant son of Angus, and delivered him 
to Argyle, who immediately sent him under careful 
guardianship to the Castle of Inchconnel in Lochow. 
The reasons for this shameful abduction do not 
appear to us very far to seek. We do not wish to 
bestow unmerited censure even upon the inveterate 
enemy of the House of Isla, but facts, however 
repulsive, must be stated unreservedly. Even the 

^ Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis. 
^ According to a History of the Clan Maclean, by " Seanachie," the Lord 
of the Isles was taken prisoner by his son at this battle — p. 24. 


most strenuous apologists of the House of Argyle 
can hardly get the facts of history to prove that 
they were either unselfish or unrewarded in their 
vaunted support of Scottish nationality, or that 
their conduct amid the turmoil of Highland politics 
was noble or disinterested. The abduction of 
Donald Dubh was an act of unspeakable meanness, 
and was instigated by the basest motives. So long 
as there was an heir to the Lordship of the Isles, so 
long was there a likelihood at least, of the Mac- 
donalds retaining the family inheritance, and so 
long must there be a postponement of the family 
of Argyle entering into possession of their estates. 
To prevent, if possible, the Macdonald succession, 
Argyle gets hold of the heir presumptive, with the 
view of retaining him a perpetual prisoner. Still 
further to prevent the succession of his grandson, 
he concocted and got the Government to believe 
the story of Donald's illegitimacy — a pure fabrica- 
tion to promote his sinister ends. If Donald Dubh 
was really illegitimate, that fact would of itself sufi&ce 
to prevent his succession to the honours and posses- 
sions of the Clan Donald, and, in the circumstances, 
the Government would be most unlikely to grant 
a charter of legitimation in his favour. Hence, if 
the story had been true, the measure of consigning 
Donald to perpetual captivity, would have been alto- 
gether unnecessary. It was because of Donald's legal 
birth, and his undoubted right to succeed his father, 
that the dastardly device was adopted of stealing 
the unoffending and ill-starred child, and making 
him virtually a prisoner for life. Our aspersions 
on the conduct of Argyle in connection with this 
particular event are warranted by the testimony 
of history. How, indeed, can we contemplate 
without indignation the character of a man who, 


to further his own schemes of pohcy, not only- 
consigned an innocent grandchild to a living death, 
but cast an unfounded suspicion on the fair fame 
of his own daughter ? 

It is not by any means surprising that this 
abduction, in which A thole was the catspaw of the 
crafty Argyle, caused the deepest resentment in the 
breast of Angus Og, and no sooner did it come to 
his knowledge than he took immediate steps to 
execute vengeance on the actual perpetrator of the 
deed. Collecting a band of warriors in the Isles, 
Angus sailed with a fleet of galleys up to Inverlochy, 
a landing-place which, from its position in the far 
interior, was well adapted for a descent upon any 
part of the North of Scotland. The Highland host, 
disembarking in this historic scene, marched through 
the great mountain passes of Lochaber and Badenoch 
until at last, swooping down upon the lowlands of 
Perthshire, they passed into the region of Athole. 
Tidings having reached Blair of the rapid approach 
of the Islesmen, and time not availing for the organi- 
zation of defence, the Earl and Countess of Athole, 
with a number of dependants and retainers, and a 
large quantity of valuable effects, took refuge in the 
sanctuary of the Church of St Bridget's. There 
is great uncertainty as to the events that followed. 
The facts of history have in this connection been so 
twisted and misplaced, and the religious preconcep- 
tions of the narrators have so obscured the issue, 
that it is well nigh impossible to extricate the real 
occurrences from the mythological haze in which 
they are enveloped. The consequence is, that modern 
Scottish historians have presented us with a blend 
of legend and fact which does great credit to their 
imagination and eloquence, but very little to their 


critical acumen. The historian of Sleat, who at no 
time is the apologist of Angus, flatly denies the 
story of the burning of St Bridget's, and it is, no 
doubt, to be placed in the same category of fabulous 
traditions as other conflagrations with which the 
family historians of the North of Scotland have 
credited the Clan Donald. The same authority 
remarks, with truth, that the Lords of the Isles 
were generous benefactors, and not the destroyers 
of churches, and this is more than can be said of 
some of the historical houses that rose upon the 
rains of their fallen state. Certain facts connected 
with the raid of Athole seem beyond dispute. That 
Angus and his followers invaded the sanctity of St 
Bridget's; that they took captive within that shrine 
the Earl and Countess of Athole, in revenge for the 
abduction of Donald, Angus' infant son, and that 
probably a quantity of valuable booty at the same 
time was seized ; that Angus took the high-born 
captives with him, by way of Inverlochy, to Isla, as 
hostages for the restoration of his son ; that the 
hurricanes of the wild western sea may have engulfed 
some of the treasure-laden galleys on their home- 
ward voyage ; that the leader and his captains in 
after times went back on a pilgrimage, probably 
directed by Mother Church, to seek the divine 
mercy at the shrine which, in their wrath, they had 
desecrated but not destroyed, doing so with all the 
outward symbols of contrition which the piety of 
the age prescribed ; and that the Earl and Countess 
of Athole were unconditionally set free from their 
captivity in Isla after the expiry of a year — all this 
appears to be fairly well authenticated. But the 
exaggerations and improbabilities that have gathered 
round the facts in the pages of the credulous chroni- 


cler — that Angus and his men burnt churches whole- 
sale in the course of their march through Athole ; 
that they tried three times to fire the Church of St 
Bridget's, which at first miraculously resisted the 
devouring element ; that when they launched out 
into the open sea they were seized with such judicial 
frenzy that they were unable to steer their ships, 
which consequently were driven by the tempest on 
a rock-bound coast and wrecked — all this belongs to 
the large mass of fable with which the history of the 
period so much abounds. The act of sacrilege and the 
subsequent act of penitence are both characteristic of 
the time. The atonement so humbly offered by 
these fierce warriors from the Isles is a gleam of light 
athwart the dark tale of vengeance. It shows how, 
even amid the violence of war and rapine, the sense 
of responsibility was but asleep, needing but the 
shock of some convulsion or catastrophe to rouse it 
into active being. The Raid of Athole took place 
about the year 1485. 

Little is known of the subsequent career of 
Angus Og, until the tragic close which seems to 
have taken place some five years later. So far as the 
government of the Isles was concerned, his position 
was unquestioned, and had his life been prolonged, 
the vigour and determination of his character would 
not improbably have done much to restore the 
ancient power of his family. A pleasing feature in 
these latter years lay in his reconciliation with his 
father. Angus Og seems never to have abandoned 
his scheme for the conquest of Ross, and it was 
probably with the view of reducing to subjection 
the old vassals of the Earldom, and particularly of 
chastising the Mackenzies, that he took his last 

/^ TOVT 




fatal journey to the North. Angus halted at Inver- 
ness, where, as was his wont, he gave hospitable 
entertainment to his friends and allies in that 
region. The story is told by the historian of Sleat 
with his usual amplitude of detail, and bears upon 
the face of it the mark of truth. 

The heir of the Lewis had been recently a minor 
under the tutelage of Rory Black Macleod, whose 
daughter was married to the Laird of Moydart. 
Kory the Black coveted the succession, and refusing 
to acknowledge the true heir to the Lewis, assumed 
the lordship himself His schemes, however, were 
thwarted by Angus Og, who displaced Bory from 
the position he usurped, and put the rightful heir in 
possession, acting in the matter as the representative 
of his father, of whom the Macleods were vassals. 
The Lady of Moydart, Bory the Black's daughter, 
moved by hatred of Angus for thus vindicating a 
righteous cause, compassed his death. There was a 
harper of County Monaghan, named Art O'Carby, 
who was either in Macdonald's retinue or a 
frequenter of his establishment. This Lnsh Orpheus 
conceived a violent passion for the daughter of 
Mackenzie of Kintail, who was at feud with Angus 
Og, and it would appear that the Lady of Moydart 
put Mackenzie up to the scheme of promising his 
daughter in marriage to O'Carby if he did away 
with the heir of the Isles. He made the harper 
swear never to disclose the secret of who instigated 
the deed. The Irishman undertook to carry out the 
dark conspiracy, and in token of his villainous 
intention was wont, when in convivial mood, to 
repeat doggerel verses of his own composition, of 
which the following is a couplet : — 



" T' anam do Dhia a mharcaich an eich bhall-bhric 
Gu bheil t' anam an cunnart ma tha puinnsean an Gallfit." 

*' Rider of the dappled steed, thy sovil to God commend, 
If there is poison in my blade, thy life right soon shall end." 

One night after Angus had retired to rest, the 
harper entered his apartment, and perceiving he was 
asleep, killed him by cutting his throat. O'Carby 
was apprehended, but never confessed who his 
tempter was, or what inducement was held out as a 
reward for the murderous act. Jewels found upon 
him which formerly belonged to Mackenzie and the 
lady of Moydart proclaimed their complicity in the 
crime. The harper, according to the cruel fashion 
of the time, was torn asunder, limb from limb, by 
wild horses.^ 

Thus fell Angus Og, and although the Sleat 
historian tells us that his father's curse visited him, 
his theory of retribution hardly fits in to the facts 
of his own narrative. Angus fell a victim, as better 
men have done before him, to the malignant spite of 
an unscrupulous and designing woman, and that not 
for any deed of cruelty or oppression, but for 
upholding the cause of justice in the succession to 
the Lordship of Lewis. With Angus vanished the 
best hopes of the Clan Donald for the restoration of 
their proud pre-eminence, and there is surely pathos 
in the thought that, as the Founder of the Family 
in historic times had his warlike career cut short by 
treachery, so now three hundred years later the last 
direct representative of the line save one, also died 
by the assassin's knife. Our estimate of his char- 
acter and the date at which we have placed his 
death, are both confirmed by the Irish Annals of 
Loch Ce, in which at the year 1490 the tragedy is 

^ Hugh Macclonald in Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 319. 


thus referred to : — " MacDhomhnaill of Alba, i.e., 
the best man in Erin or in Alba of his time, was 
unfortnnately slain by an Irish harper, i.e., Diarmaid 
Cairbrech, in his own chamber."^ 

At the period to which we have now come, it 
may well be said that, although many bright pages 
of the story of the House of Somerled still remain 
to be written, yet its heroic age as the dominant 
power in the Western Isles of Scotland is beginning 
to pass away. After the death of Angus, the Clan 
Donald were never afterwards united under a leader 
so able, or in whom they reposed such confidence. 
From 1476 down to his death his father's head- 
ship of the house was nominal ; for it was round 
Angus that the kindred clans rallied at every 
juncture that arose. On his death, John again 
became the effective ruler in the Isles, and there 
was still a possibility, had he possessed an imperial 
spirit, of the Lordship of the Isles being maintained. 
Not long after Angus' death, John, though still far 
short of extreme old age, ceased to take an active 
part in the government of his territories, which he 
seems to have surrendered to his nephew, Alexander, 
son of Celestine of Lochalsh. Alexander acted 
ostensibly in the interests of Donald Dubh, who, 
though still in prison, was undoubtedly heir 
apparent to John ; but as there was little hope of 
his ev^er being released, Lochalsh doubtless contem- 
plated, with few misgivings, his own succession to 
the Lordship of the Isles. At the same time it is 
clear, from subsequent events, that notwithstanding 
Donald's continued captivity, the Islesmen were 

^ The name of the assassin given in the above authority differs from that 
given by Hugh Macdonald, which is " Art" (not Diarmaid) " O'Cairbre," 
Hugh Macdonald in Coll. de Rebus Alb., p. 318, 


unanimous in regarding him as his grandfather's 
rightful heir. 

It had often been the fate of the last Earl of 
Ross to be under the influence of wills more imperi- 
ous and resolute than his own, though, strangely 
enough, he offered a stubborn resistance to the aims 
and policy of his son. It was so now in his declining 
years. He who had so strenuously resisted the 
resolute stand made by Angus against the encroach- 
ments upon the family estates, now abandoned every 
attempt to curb the turbulence of his nephew, Alex- 
ander of Lochalsh. Whether he approved of the 
rising of 1491, or whether he made unavailing pro- 
testations against it, we are unable to say. All we 
know is that Alexander seems, without any delay, 
to have taken up the schme for the invasion of 
Koss, which was interrupted by the death of Angus 
Og. Owing to his territorial position in Wester 
Ross, Alexander naturall}'' possessed great influence 
in that region. The extensive lands of Lochbroom, 
Lochcarron, and Lochalsh were his, and he doubtless 
expected that the other vassals of the earldom, 
always of course excepting the Mackenzies, would 
attend the summons to his banner. In this he was 
to a large extent disappointed. Still his following 
was a formidable one. The whole power of the 
island and mainland Macdonalds, along with the 
other vassals of the lordship, and the Clan Cameron, 
who were vassals of Alexander for the lands of 
Locheil, formed no inconsiderable array, and with 
all these resources at his back, he might hope, with 
some prospect of success, to win back the inheritance 
which his uncle had lost. Indeed, he possessed far 
greater resources than Angus Og was ever able to 
command, in view of the divided state of the Lord- 


ship of the Isles in his time. We have no reason to 
doubt the personal bravery and prowess of Alex- 
ander, but he seems to have lacked that inexplicable 
power of organising forces and leading them to 
victory w4iich is born with a man, and constitutes 
the true commander. Alexander and his army, 
taking the time-honoured highway, marched through 
Lochaber into Badenoch, where they were joined by 
the Clan Chattan, under the command of Farquhar 
Mackintosh, captain of the Clan. Arriving at Inver- 
ness, which he stormed and garrisoned, and where 
he was joined by Hugh Rose, younger of Kilravock, 
the only vassal of the Earldom that seconded his 
undertaking, Alexander next directed his march 
towards Ross. Invading the Black Isle, he and his 
host penetrated to its extremest limit, plundering 
the lands of Sir Alexander Urquhart, Sheriff of 
Cromarty. Authorities are agreed that at this stage 
Lochalsh divided his forces into two sections, one 
detachment having been sent home with the spoil, 
while the other marched to Strathconan to ravage 
and lay waste the Mackenzie lands. Like almost all 
the chronicles of this age bearing upon the history 
of the Highlands, the aimals of this campaign 
abound in absurd inaccuracies and exaggerations. 
When we find a mythical Celestine^ performing deeds 
of valour, and meeting with a hero's death ; Angus 
Og or his father" taken prisoner, but soon thereafter 
magnanimously released by Coinneach a Bhlair ; 
Alastair lonraic, who died in 1488, giving his 
benediction to his son before going to battle ; a 
supernatural being of diminutive stature appearing 

^ For this and the most of the other fictions, the aijocryphal MS. history 
of the Mackeuzies, belonging to the Cromartie Family, is responsible. 

2 It is difficult in some parts to make out wliether John of Isla or his son 
Angus is meant. 


and vanishing mysteriously, and in the interval 
doing great havoc among the invaders,^ — when we 
find all this taking place at the Battle of Park in 
1491, we are warned that the stories of the Northern 
chronicles of the time must be accepted with great 
reserve. In these circumstances, we do not attach 
the slightest credence to the legend of Contin Parish 
Church being set on fire by Alexander of Lochalsh 
and his men on their march from Strathconan. 
Neither do we believe that Alastair lonraic, having 
departed this life three years previously, could have 
congratulated his people — as he is said to have done 
— that now this sacrilegious act had enlisted Omni- 
potence on the side of the Mackenzies. The whole 
bombastic and inflated Mackenzie history of Blar na 
Pairc is correct only in this one particular, namely, 
that the Macdonalds were worsted, and had to retire 
from Ross. 

So far as we can gather, the sober facts of history 
in this connection are clear enough. Alexander and 
his men arrived at Park late in the evening after 
harrying and laying waste the lands of Strathconan. 
Wearied with the day's labours, they slumbered on 
the field, and apparently committed the fatal over- 
sight of keeping neither watch nor ward. Mean- 
while Kenneth of Kintail, who was by all accounts 
a brave warrior, had assembled his available strength, 
and now under the silence of night, while the Isles- 
men were asleep, bore down upon their encampment."^ 
The Macdonalds were taken completely by surprise, 
and there ensued one of those panics which some 
times, like an electric shock, have been known to 
pass through bands of armed men. Their con- 
fusion became hopeless and inextricable, and was 

^ New Statistical Account of FoMvrty, p. 255. 
2 Hugh Macdoiiald in Cull. <Se-Re)). Alb., p. .321. 


aggravated by the boggy nature of the ground 
which lay between them and the river Conon, but 
with which their enemies were well acquainted. 
There is no reason to question the tradition that, 
while many were put to the sword, a considerable 
number were drowned in the Conon, towards which 
they were driven by their triumphant foes. Such 
was the Battle of Park, an illustration of the 
advantage possessed by an enemy, resolute and 
wary, taking an encampment by surprise. The 
result was the retirement of Alexander of Lochalsh 
from Ross, and his abandonment for the time being 
of all attempts to accomplish its conquest. It has 
been held by some that Park was fought in 1488, 
but the evidence is all in favour of the later date. 
Angus Og was alive in 1488, and it is not likely 
that he would have played a subordinate part in 
such a campaign, or that Alexander would have 
borne the prominent part he did had Park been 
fought in the lifetime of John of Isla's son. We 
find also that in 1492 Sir Alexander Urquhart 
obtained restitution on behalf of himself and others 
for the spoil carried away by the Islanders, and it 
is very unlikely that a claim of such magnitude 
would have lain dormant from 1488.^ Hence there 
seems little doubt that the Battle of Park was 
fought in 1491. 

The invasion of Boss, undertaken undoubtedly 
with the view of gaining forcible possession of the 
Earldom, which was since 1476 vested in the Crown, 
could not fail to be regarded as an insurrection 
against the State, and, as such, calling for the 

^ The apoil amounted to 600 cows autl oxeu, SO lior«es, 1000 .slieei), 200 
swine, 500 bolls victual— plenishing £300 in value, and £'600 of the mails of 
the Sheriff's lands. 


severest measures. Whether John of the Isles 
approved of his nephew's rebelUon or not, it appeared 
to the authorities that the time had come for depriv- 
ing him finally of every vestige of power he possessed. 
If he aided and abetted in the proceedings of 1491, 
he would appear to the Government in the light of 
a hopeless rebel, into whom the experience of forty 
years failed to instil the lessons of loyalty. If he 
disajiproved of but failed to prevent the disorderly 
proceedings in Boss, his deprivation would seem 
equally called for, on the ground of his utter inability 
to exercise authority in the regions or over the 
vassals subject to his sway. It was on one or other 
of these grounds that in May, 1493, John was 
forfeited in all his estates and titles, and this 
measure was formally implemented by himself in 
1494, when he made a voluntary surrender of 
them all.^ 

Thus fell the Lordship of the Isles, and with it 
the dynasty which for hundreds of years had con- 
tinued to represent, in a position of virtual inde- 
pendence, the ancient Celtic system of Scotland. 
The natural result of such a catastrophe was that 
for a long term of years the region that had been 
ruled by these Celtic princes was subject to pro- 
longed outbursts of anarchy and disorder. There 
arose a vacuum in the social system which the 
authority of the Scottish State, anti- Celtic as it had 
increasingly become, failed adequately to fill up. 
Social order depends as much upon sympathy with 
the governing Power as upon force, and the amal- 
gamation of the Celtic and Saxon elements of 
Scottish society must inevitably prove a long 
[>vocess. Still further, while the feudal position of 

^ There .-^eem^ to be no public record of thia tinal forfeiture. 


the Lordship of the Isles was one that Parliament 
could abolish, the Highlanders regarded it, not as a 
feudal, but as a Celtic dignity, older than, and inde- 
pendent of, the Scottish State — a dignity which no 
individual could surrender, and no King or State 
could destroy. Thus it was that for two generations 
after John's forfeiture Highland politics swayed 
between efforts on the part of the Crown to reduce 
the Clans to subjection, on the one hand, and 
spasmodic movements by the Clans, on the other, 
to restore the Celtic order which they loved, by 
rallying to the banner of one scion of the Family of 
the Isles after another, each of whom laid claim, with 
more or less appearance of justice, to the ancient 
honours of his house. 

Events of consequence transpired between John's 
political demise in 1494 and his death in 1498, but 
these will more ajDpropriately fall to be considered 
in a succeeding chapter. At this stage we can most 
fittingly record the few facts that are known 
regarding the declining years of the last of the 
Earls of Ross and Lords of the Isles. What we do 
know of the fallen potentate during his latter days 
gives us a sad picture of departed greatness. He, 
the descendant of kings, lived as a pensioner upon 
the bounty of James IV. down to the day of his 
death, having his clothes and shoes and pocket 
money doled out to him like a pauper. The general 
belief has been, and historians have consistently 
followed one another in stating, that after his 
forfeiture John lived and died an inmate of the 
Monastery of Paisley, an institution that had in 
former years enjoyed the munificent patronage of 
the House of Isla. The records of the period tell a 
somewhat difierent tale.^ The monastery doubtless 

^ High Treasurer's Accounts. 

282 *HE CLAN DONALt>. 

was his home, but he sometimes left it, paying 
visits, among other places, to his old dominions in 
Lochaber and the Isles. At last we find him falling 
sick at Dundee, where he dies in an obscure lodging- 
house, and the sum due to his landlady and the 
expenses of his " furthbringing'" are charged to the 
Scottish Treasury.^ All this is quite consistent with 
the tradition that his remains were buried at his 
own request in the tomb of his ancestor, Bobert II., 
in the ancient Abbey of Paisley,^ whither they must 
have been conveyed all the way from Dundee. 
Here closes the record of a " strange eventful 
history" — and as we part with this last of the line 
of Somerled, who swayed the sceptre of the Gael in 
the ancient Kingdom of the Isles, we conclude with 
the legend which seems more descriptive than any 
other of so much glory and so great a fall, Sic 
transit gloria mundi.^ 

1 " Item (Feb. 5, 1498), to Pate Sinclair, to send to Dunde to pay for 
Johuue of Islis furthbringing and berying, and to lones his gere," i.e., to 
settle with his landlady. — The High Treasurer's Accounts. 

2 Hugh Macdonald in Coll. de Reb. Alb., p. 317. 

^ Successive historians have spoken of John in his latter years as the 
" aged" Lord of the Isles ; but as he was only 18 when he succeeded his father 
in 1449, he could only have been 67 at his death. 




State of the Highlands after the Forfeiture of the Lord of the 
Isles. — James IV. visits the Highlands, and holds Court at 
Duustaffnage. — Several Highland Chiefs submit to the King. 
— The King at Tarbert in Kintyre. — Left Garrisons at 
Tarbert and Duuaverty. — Revolt of the Clan Iain Mhoir. — 
The King at Mingai'ry receives Submission of many of the 
Highland Chiefs. — Legislation for the Isles. — Rebellion of 
Alexander of Lochalsh. — The King grants Charters at his 
new Castle of Kilkerran, in Kintyre. — The King revokes 
Charters formerly granted by him to the Highland Chiefs. — 
Rebellion of Donald Dubh. — Legislation for the Highlands. — 
Appointment of Sherifts. —The position of the different 
Brandies of the Clan Donald.— The Highlanders at Flodden. 
— First Rebellion of Sir Donald of Lochalsh. — Second Rebellion 
of Sir Donald of Lochalsh. — His Death. 

The fall of the Lordship of the Isles, consequent on 
the forfeiture of John, resulted, as might have been 
expected, in much disorder and bloodshed. The 
Celtic system, which had flourished for centuries 
under the suzerainty of the Scottish State, was 
deeply rooted in the Highlands and Islands, and 
was not easily supplanted by the desperate policy of 
destroying " the wicked blood of the Isles" pursued 
by the King and his advisers. The Celtic system, 
on the whole, had worked well, and suited the genius 
of the people. This will become apparent if we draw 
a parallel between the state of the Highlands during 
the period of the Lordship of the Isles and that 
which followed down to the abolition of the Herit- 


able Jurisdictions. No doubt the downfall of the 
Lordship of the Isles and the final overthrow of the 
Celtic system were brought about entirely by the 
restlessness of and the short-sighted policy pursued 
by the Island Lords themselves, and considering the 
chequered history of each successive head of the 
family, we only wonder how the present catastrophe 
has been averted so long. If John, the last Lord of 
the Isles, had pursued a more prudent line of policy 
towards the Scottish State, the Celtic system would 
undoubtedly have lasted longer, and its gradual 
merging into feudal Scotland would have averted 
much of the bloodshed and turmoil of the next 
hundred years. 

James IV. set himself to solve the difficult and 
formidable problem before him with much energy 
and perseverance. His policy at first, though firm, 
was conciliatory. He resolved on visiting the High- 
lands, making himself acquainted with the vassals of 
the Isles, and with the real state of matters in the 
altered circumstances consequent on the forfeiture of 
the Island Lord. On the 18th of August, 1493, we 
find him at DunstafFnage, where he held Court, and 
received the homage of several Highland chiefs, and, 
among others, of John of Dunnyveg, John Cathanach 
his son, John Maclan of Ardnamurchan, and Alex- 
ander of Lochalsh.^ In October of the same year he 
visited the North Highlands, very probably not on 
State business, but on one of those frequent pilgrim- 
ages which he took to the shrine of St Duthus in 
Tain.^ James was so desirous of conciliating the 

^ At " DunstaSynch," the King, on the 18th of August, 1493, confirms 
John Ogilvy in the barony of Fingask. — Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. II., No. 2171. 

- On the 25th of October, 1493, the King grants a charter, at the Castle 
of Dingwall. Gregory is mistaken in saying that the liing held Court at 
Mingarry on tha,t date. — Vide Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. II., 2181. 


Clan Donald vassals that he knighted Jolin of 
Dunnyveg, the son of Donald Balloch, and Alex- 
ander of Lochalsh, and confirmed them in their 
lands.^ The honour conferred on Alexander of 
Lochalsh and the leniency shown to him are all the 
more remarkable on account of his recent rebellion 
against the King's authority. It would appear that 
he, and not Donald Dubh, notwithstanding the 
charter of 1476, which makes Angus Og heir to the 
Lordship of the Isles, is of all the Macdonald chief- 
tains the one looked upon as having the best claim 
to the forfeited Island honours, and the most likely 
to push that claim. It was, no doubt, with this in 
view that the King, wishing to attach Alexander to 
his interest, conferred upon him the honour of knight- 
hood. The favour bestowed on the son of Donald 
Balloch was no less remarkable, in view of the 
treasonable conduct of both father and son in con- 
nection with the Treaty of Ardthornish. The other 
Clan Donald vassals, consisting of Allan of Moydart, 
John of Sleat, John Abrachson of Glencoe, and 
Alister Maclan of Glengarry, had not yet acknow- 
ledged the new order of things. The only chieftain 
of the Clan Donald who made any show of loyalty 
was Maclan of Ardnamurchan, whose allegiance and 
services at this time and afterwards were amply 
requited at the expense of the other clansmen. 

Notwithstanding the King's conciliatory measures, 
the Islanders seem slow to accept them. The King 
was perhaps too precipitate in his legislation for the 
Highlands. We have no reason to suspect his 
sincerity, but his zeal was without knowledge. The 
Scottish Kings had not hitherto troubled themselves 
much with the personal oversight of their Celtic 

' Treasurer's Accounts, 1494, 


subjects. A wide gulf separated Highlander and 
Lowlander, both socially and racially, and it was not 
to be bridged over by a few flying visits by King 
James to Kintyre and Mingarry. These visits 
lacked the sympathy in dealing with the situation 
which would have cemented the Highland chiefs to 
the Scottish throne. The policy of legislating for 
the Highlands from the Lowland point of view was 
pursued, and as subsequent events show, it proved 
futile, if not indeed disastrous. The Highland 
problem was one the solution of which seemed 
entirely beyond the capacity of the Lowland mind. 
Though, as we have seen, a few of the vassals of the 
Lordship of the Isles had made a show of allegiance 
at Dunstaflfnao'e, manv others still remained unsub- 
missive. Their conduct rendered it necessary for 
the King to again visit the Highlands. At the 
head of a strong military force he pushed his way 
westwards as far as Kintyre.^ The Castle of 
Tarbert was erected, as we have already seen, by 
Robert Bruce to check the power of the Island 
Lords. Here the King, with the view of strength- 
ening the defences of the important peninsula of 
Kintyre, left a strong garrison. He also took 
possession, apparently without any opposition, of 
the Castle of Dunaverty, a stronghold of the 
Macdonalds, in South Kintyre, which, situated on 
the top of a tremendous precipice, nature, assisted 
by art, rendered impregnable. Having made 
Dunaverty secure, as he thought, against any 
possible assault, the King returned South by sea. 
What success attended his visit to the Highlands 
in the way of receiving the submission of those 
chiefs who had hitherto held aloof we have no means 

^ Treasurer's Accouuts for 1494. 


of knowing, though it would appear from after 
events that the success of his expedition in this 
respect fell far short of his expectations. He had 
already so far conciliated the Clan Iain Mhoir by 
confirming them in at least the principal lands 
which they held under the Lords of the Isles, that 
opposition on their part was not looked for. The 
King, however, had taken the precaution in case of 
revolt to place the district of Kintyre under mili- 
tary surveillance. By this bold stroke of policy he 
expected to overawe the men of Argyle, but he soon 
found out his mistake. Though the district of 
Kintyre was resigned by John, Lord of the Isles, in 
1476, many of the same lands were afterwards 
restored to him in 1481, and whether the lands 
possessed by the Clan Iain Mhoir were in any way 
affected either by the forfeiture of 1476, or the 
restoration of 1481, there seems every reason to 
believe that the family were in possession of almost 
the whole lordship of Kintyre in 1494. It was 
not, therefore, we think, the loss of their lands in 
Kintyre, as suggested by Gregory, that roused this 
family into opposition to the King's policy ; it was 
rather the presence of a military force in their midst 
that the proud spirited Lords of Dunnyveg could 
not brook. The King had barely gone on board the 
ship that was to carry him back to Dumbarton, 
when Sir John of Dunnyveg, assisted by his son, 
John Cathanach, besieged Dunaverty. After a 
stout resistance on the part of the Lowlanders, Sir 
John and the men of Kintyre took possession of the 
Castle, and hanged the King's governor over the 
precipitous rock on which that stronghold stood. 
The King, who from the deck of his ship witnessed 
this horrible deed, vowed vengeance, as might have 


been expected, on the Lord of Dunnyveg, who 
by and by was made to pay the penalty of his 

It may be as well at this stage to refer to the 
confusion which seems to exist with reference to the 
family of Dunnyveg and the part played by the 
different members of that family in the history of 
this time. It has generally been believed that the 
rebel who defied the King in Kintyre was John 
Cathanach, while his father, John, the son of 
Donald Balloch, has been entirely dropped out of the 
history of the family. No doubt John Cathanach 
played a conspicuous part in the history of those 
stirring times. He had been fostered with the 
O'Cathans, his mother's kin, in Ireland, where love 
to the Saxon was not, we may be sure, one of the 
graces with which his young mind was imbued. 
In any case, John's character was intensely Celtic, 
and he bore no love to his Saxon neisfhbours. Some 
have asserted that John, the father of John Cath- 
anach, died before his own father, Donald Balloch. 
We find Donald Balloch witnessing at Isla a charter 
of John, Lord of the Isles, on the 20th of August, 
1476, and-a.s we hear no more of him, and being a 
very old man, he probably died shortly after that 
event. ^ At all events, as we shall soon see, his son 
John, and his grandson, John Cathanach, perished 
together for the part they took in the affair of 
Dunaverty. That the John who was knighted by 
the King shortly before this time was not John 
Cathanach, but his father, is proved beyond any 
manner of doubt by the royal charter of lands in 
Isla granted to John Maclan of Ardnamurchan for 
apprehending " Johannes de Insulis de Glennys 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. II., No. 1277. 


militis, Johannes Caynoch, ejus filii, et complicum 
suorum."^ The King, immediately on his return 
South, sent a messenger to Kintyre to summon Sir 
John of the Isles for treason, which no doubt refers 
to his conduct at Dunaverty.^ Sir John ignored 
the summons, but the King employed other and 
more effective means of apprehending the rebel. 
Maclan of Ardnamurchan, as we have seen, is 
already in high favour with his sovereign. There 
had been a dispute between him and Sir John of 
Dunnyveg over the lands of Suanart, and therefore 
no love was lost between the clansmen. Maclan 
had besides married a daughter of the Earl of 
Argyle, and through this matrimonial alliance had 
become a tool in the hands of that crafty nobleman, 
which he was not slow to use against the Clan 
Donald. Instigated by Argyle, Maclan treacher- 
ously apprehended at Finlaggan, in Isla, in the end 
of the year 14 94, " Sir John of the Isles and Glens, 
John Cathanach his son, and their accomplices," 
and brought them to Edinburgh, where, after being 
convicted of high treason, they were all hanged on 
the Boroughmuir, and their bodies were buried in 
the Church of St Francis, then called the New 
Church.^ The exact date of the execution of Sir 
John of Dunnyveg, and his son John Cathanach, is 
not given by any authority, but it may be taken for 
gr-anted that it took place shortly after they were 
apprehended, and, therefore, about the beginning of 

1 Argyll Charter Chest. The Charter is dated 29th March, 1499, and is 
given in full in " The Book of Islay," pp. 28-30. 

^ In the Treasurer's Accounts for the year 1494, the sum of £6 13s 4d is 
charged as having been paid to a messenger " to passe to summond Sir John 
of the Ills of treasone in Kintyre and the expensis of the witnes." — Pitcairn, 
vol. I., p. 116. 

^ MacVuirich in Reliq. Celt., p. 163. 



the year 1495. According to Gregory, four sons of* 
John Cathanach were executed with their father on 
the Boroughmuir, but the references he gives are 
the Charter of 1499, ah^eady quoted, MacVuirich, 
and Hugh Macdonald. In the charter there is no 
reference to any son of John Cathanach, while 
MacVuirich has it that three sons of John Cathanach 
were executed, namely, John Mor, John Og, and 
Donald Balloch.^ Hugh Macdonald, in his MS., 
printed in the Collectanea de Bebus Albanicis, says 
that " Alexander of Kintyre and his two sons, one 
of whom was called John Cathanach, were by the 
Kinof's orders hansfed at the Borrowmuir, near 
Edinburgh, because after the resignation of John of 
the Isles they neither would take their rights from 
the King nor deliver up to him those lands which 
Macdonald had in Isla and Kintyre."^ In the 
portion of his manuscript still unpublished, Hugh 
Macdonald, referring to John Cathanach, says that 
at the instigation of Argyle and Glencairn, Mac- 
Ian of Ardnamurchan apprehended him and his 
two sons, John Galld and John Gallach, and 
brought them to Edinburgh. Thus we see how 
Hugh Macdonald contradicts himself as well as 
MacVuirich, while Gregory, so persistently and 
slavishly copied by all who have come after him, 
misquotes both Hugh Macdonald and MacVuirich, 
as well as the Charter of 1499. In that charter it 
is stated very clearly that Maclan of Ardnamurchan 
is rewarded for apprehending " John of the Isles and 
Glens, Knight, John Cathanach, his son, and their 
accomplices." We have no hesitation in accepting 
the authority of the charter and refusing to accept 

^ MacVuirich in Reliq. Celt., p. 163. 
2 Hugh Macdonald in Coll. de Rebus Alb., p. 324. 


statements so confusing and contradictory as those 
of Hugh Macdonald and MacVuirich. 

All the sons of John Cathanach, as well as Alex- 
ander and Angus Ileach, would have found refuge 
from the Koyal vengeance and the persecution of 
Maclan in the Antrim Glens. According to Mac- 
Vuirich, Maclan destroyed nearly the whole race of 
John Mor. He pursued Alexander, the son of John 
Cathanach, to the Glens of Antrim, which evidently 
at that time were thickly wooded, for Maclan 
expended much wealth in making axes to cut down 
the trees, so that the Lord of the Glens and his 
followers would have no hiding place within their 
ov/n territory.^ Maclan, however, notwithstanding 
all the gold and silver spent by him on instruments 
of destruction, did not succeed in driving Alexander, 
the son of John Cathanach, out of the Antrim Glens. 
Though banished from Scotland, the Clan Iain 
Mhoir held considerable sway in Ireland, and were 
able to check the progress of the English invaders 
through Northern Ulster. It is almost certain 
that none of them ventured to return to Scotland 
durinof the lifetime of James IV. 

After the episode of Dunaverty, the King paid 
several visits to the Highlands in close succession. 
Many of the chiefs still held out, but James was 
determined to bring them to subjection. Besides 
the Castles of Tarbert and Dunaverty, which he had 
already garrisoned, he also placed strong garrisons 
in Mingarry, and Cairnburgh,^ in Mull, and having 
secured these, which were the most important 
defences in Argyleshire, he set about making pre- 
parations for a military exjiedition on a large scale. 

^ MacVuirich in Reliq. Celt,, p. 165. 
" Treasurer's Accounts for the year 1494, 


About midsummer, 1495, he left Glasgow at the 
head of a strong force, and marched to Dumbarton.^ 
At Dumbarton he embarked his troops, and pro- 
ceeded by the Mull of Kin tyre to Mingarry, in 
Ardnamurchan, where he held Court.^ Awed by 
the presence of so formidable an armament in the 
Western seas, many of the chiefs hastened to Min- 
garry and paid homage to the King, among whom 
were Allan of Clanranald, John of Sleat, and Donald 
of Keppoch. Maclan had already shewn much zeal 
in the King's service, and had recently been rewarded 
by a gi-ant of lands in Isla.^ Thus all the Macdonald 
vassals within the Lordship of the Isles, with the 
exception of Macdonald of Glencoe and the banished 
Macdonald of Dunnyveg, submitted to the King, 
and the aspect of affairs augured well for the future 
government of the Southern Highlands at least. 

The King went back to Edinburgh quite elated 
at the success of his efforts, and to ensure the success 
of his policy he called a meeting of his Council, and 
submitted to them measures for the better govern- 
ment of the Isles. The Council passed an Act which, 
in the present unsettled state of the Islands, if 
carried out, could hardly fail to be productive of 
good fruit. This Act provided that every chief must 
be answerable for the serving of summonses and 
other writs against his own clansmen, under the 
penalty of being himself liable to the party bringing 
the action. "* As a result of these proceedings, several 
chiefs appeared before the Council in Edinburgh, 

' Treasurer's Accounts for the year 1495. 

- " At Meware iu Ardmurquhaue the King granted a charter on the 18th 
May, 1495, to Sir WiUiam Stirling of Ker."— Reg. of Great Seal, vol. II., No. 

^ Reg. of Great Seal, 14th June, 1494, vol. II., No. 2216. 

■» Acta Dom. Con. VIII., folio 39. 


among whom were Maclan of Ardnamurchan, Clan- 
ranald, and Keppoch, and bound themselves by a 
bond of £500 each to refrain from injuring one 
another/ What effect this Act had on those whom 
it concerned, we know not, but it manifests, at all 
events, the earnest desire of the King to bring about 
peace and good government in the Isles. 

The state of matters in the North Highlands did 
not render it necessary for the King to devote so 
much attention to that region. We find hini indeed 
often visiting the North during those years, but 
always in a ver}'- different capacity from that in 
which we find him in Argyleshire. The great object 
of the King's visits was the shrine of St Duthus in 
Tain, which, in James's eyes at least, had a peculiar 
sanctity. His father had endowed the Church of 
St Duthus, and the King almost yearly went to 
Tain to worship at the sacred shrine. Interesting 
glimpses may be gathered from the Treasurer's 
Accounts of the King's visits to Hoss-shire. On one 
occasion we find him at Dingwall, after his devotions 
in Tain, evidently bent on devoting his time more 
to the pursuit of pleasure than to the exercises 
of piety. The Treasurer charges to tlie Scottish 
Exchequer the sum of ten shillings and six- 
pence given to the King "for playing at tho 
cartis," while one shilling and sixpence is paid to 
the " maddins" that sang l)efore His Majesty. Tlie 
neighbouring magnates send presents to the King. 
Lord Lovat sends " ane hert and ane ram," the 
Bishop of Eoss " ane selch and oysteris," while 
another sends " ane flacat of aqua vite." Twenty 
years have now elapsed since the Lord of the Isles 
resigned the Earldom of Ross, but the vassals of the 

^ Acta Dominorum Concilii, VIII., fol. 39. 


Earldom were not in any way affected by the final 
forfeiture of that nobleman and the fall of the Icland 
Lordship. With very few exceptions, the vassals of 
Koss never were very sincere in their attachment to 
the Lords of the Isles, while, on the contrary, the 
vassals of the Isles had always been loyal, and when 
therefore the Lordship of the Isles came to an end 
through the forfeiture of John in 1493, the result 
was open rebellion on the part of the Islesmen 
against the Scottish State. We have seen that 
Alexander of Lochalsh was not among the Mac- 
donald chieftains who paid homage to the King 
at Mingarry Mackenzie of Kintail, a vassal of 
Koss, and Mackintosh, one of the vassals of 
the Isles, were at this time thrown into prison 
in Edinburgh. Mackenzie, though nearly related 
by marriage to the Island family, was very pro- 
bably convicted for the excesses committed by him 
after the Lochalsh rebellion of 1491, and not for any 
help he had given, or was likely to give, to the 
rebels of the Isles. His family, on the contrary, had 
all along opposed the Lords of the Isles in Ross- 
shire. The case of Mackintosh was entirely different. 
Besides his close blood relationship to the Lords of 
the Isles, his family had been greatly enriched by 
them with grants of lands in Lochaber. It is likely 
enough, therefore, that his imprisonment at this 
time was the result of his opposition to the new 
order of thinofs both in Ross and in the Isles. 
Though the northern portion of the Highlands was 
thus meanwhile in a comparatively quiet state, it was 
not destined to remain so for any length of time, 
Alexander of Lochalsh, notwithstanding the favours 
bestowed upon him by the King, ventured once more 
into the arena of rebellion. His motives in raising 
again the flag of revolt are not far to seek. His former 


rebellion undoubtedly brought about the final for- 
feiture of the Lord of the Isles, and he perhaps 
thought the present a favourable opportunity to 
strike a blow for the restoration of the family 
honours in his own person. The King had of late 
paid little attention to Highland politxs, his 
Majesty's time being absorbed by English intrigue, 
and that foreign impostor, Perkin Warbeck. It is 
not at all likely that Lochalsh had the Earldom of 
Ross in view, though, according to Hugh Macdonald, 
he put forward a claim as tutor for Donald Dubh. 
It appears that the King himself looked upon Alex- 
ander as the nearest heir to the forfeited Lord of the 
Isles, for he received a promise from His Majesty 
that the tenants of the Lordship would have security 
in their holdings.^ It is hardly conceivable that with 
so small a following Lochalsh could have had the 
presumption to attempt the restoration of the Island 
Lordship in his own person. This, however, and 
nothing less, was the goal which he had set before 
himself, and he no doubt expected that the vassals 
would all in time join his standard. He opened his 
campaign by making a descent on his Ross-shire 
neighbours, in revenge for his defeat at Pai k. After 
ravaging several districts with fire and sword, he 
was at length met at Drumchatt by the Muniois 
and Mackenzies, and, according to the historian of 
the Sutherland Family, was there defeated with 
great slaughter.^ Alexander now betook himself to 
the Isles, and went south as far as Colonsay, with 
the view, according to Hugh Macdonald, of raising 
more men to recover his lands in Ross,^ but more 
probably with the object of creating a rebellion for 

1 Vide Charter to I^uald MacAUan oi C'.aniaiuild in KugisLer of Great 
Seal, vol. II., No. 2438. 

- Gordou'd Family of Sutherlaud, p. 77. 

* Hugh Macdonald, iu Coll. de Kebus Alb., p. 321. 


the purpose of recovering the Island Lordship. In 
this, however, he was not successful. The strong 
defensive measures taken by the King had had their 
effect on the Islesmen, and they were not prepared, 
however much they wished it, to join in an insur- 
rection against the Scottish Government. Alex- 
ander of Lochalsh had barely time to mature his 
plans, whatever these may have been, for he perished 
by the hands of the assassin, at Orinsay, very soon 
after his arrival at Colonsay. The foul deed was 
perpetrated by his own kinsman, Maclan of Ardna- 
murchan, either to please the King, or Argyle, or 
both. According to the seanachies of Sleat and 
Clanranald, Maclan had as his accomplice on this 
occasion Alexander, the son of John Cathanach,^ but 
that hero, as we have seen, took refuge in Ireland 
after the execution of his father and grandfather in 
1495, and as he did not venture to set foot on 
Scottish soil again for many years after the murder 
of Alexander of Lochalsh, he cannot have been 
guilty of the serious crime alleged against him. 

The King after a short interval again devoted 
his attention to the South Highlands. Not 
regarding the two fortresses of Tarbert and 
Dunaverty as affording sufficient protection to his 
lieges in Kintyre, he built another stronghold at 
Kilkerran. In the summer of 1498 he visited 
Kintyre, and held court at Kilkerran, where several 
chiefs came to meet him and renew their allegiance. 
Here the King granted several charters, the first of 
which is dated on the 30th of June, while the last is 
dated on the 5th of August, which indicates a long 
stay on this occasion at his new Castle of Kilkerran.^ 

1 H. Macdonald, in Coll. de Kebus Alb., i^. 321. MacVuirich, in Reliq. 
Celt, p. 165. 

- Register of the Great Seal, vul. II., pp. olo-18. 


Part of that time at least was devoted to the 
setthng of disputes between the Clanranald and 
Clan Uisdean on the one hand, and the Clan 
Uisdean and the Macleods of Dunvegan on the 
other. On the 3rd of August the King granted a 
charter of lands in Uist to Ranald MacAllan for 
services rendered by him in time of peace, and again 
on the 5th of the same month other lands in Uist, 
Eigg, and Arisaig are granted to him.^ In the 
latter charter the King confirms to Ranald the 
lands resigned in his favour by John, the son and 
heir of Hugh of Sleat. The Clanranald family, 
however, never obtained possession of the lands in 
Skye and North Uist, formerly held by Hugh of 
Sleat. The King also on the 5th of August granted 
a charter of lands in Benbecula in Uist, in Moror, 
and in Arisaig, to Angus Reochson MacRanald, all 
of which formerly belonged to Hugh of Sleat. ^ At 
the same time the lands of Troternisli, with the 
bailliary of that district, were granted to Torquil 
Macleod of Lewis and his heirs by Catherine, 
daughter of Archibald, Earl of Argyle.^ Here it is 
evident "we have material for family feuds for many 
a long year to come. 

The King had no sooner returned from his long 
sojourn in Kintyre than he revoked the charters 
recently granted by him, as well as all others 
which he had formerly granted to the vassals 
of the Isles. What induced him to change his 
policy so suddenly, in view of its apparent 
success, is not at first sight easily understood. 
We are not long, however, left in any doubt 
as to the real cause of this sudden turn in the 

i Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. II., No. 2437 and 2i38. 
- Ibidem, No. 2349. ^ Ibidem, No, 1424. 

^98 tMe clan DONALD. 

tide of affairs. The King early next year visits 
Kintyre to initiate his new policy. He grants a 
commission of lieutenandry to Archibald, Earl of 
Argyle, over the whole Lordship of the Isles, and 
appoints him Keeper of the Castle of Tarbert and 
Bailie of Knapdale. He also gave the Earl a com- 
mission to let on lease for three years the whole 
Lordship of the Isles, except Kintyre and Isla.^ 
Thus it is only too evident who had induced the 
King to change his plans in regard to the Govern- 
ment of the Isles. The crafty Argyle succeeded in 
persuading the evidently too impressionable James 
that he had acted far too leniently towards the men 
of the Isles, and that a less conciliatory policy would 
in the long run prove the wisest. The King's 
conduct in breaking faith with the Islanders and 
yielding to the evil counsel of the wily schemer 
cannot be too severely condemned. It was conduct 
altogether unworthy of a King, and such as to make 
us suspect the genuineness of his motives in every 
previous effort made by him to legislate for the 
Islands. Argyle succeeded in attaining the object 
of his ambition, but not, as we shall soon see, in 
making the Islanders more law abiding, or more 
loyal to the throne. His administration had, on 
the contrary, the very opposite effect. It seems 
that the King, no doubt at the instigation of 
Argyle, had resolved to expel the Macdonald land- 
holders from their possessions, as well as other 
vassals who were supposed to be favourable to the 
claims of Donald Dubh, and others, to the Lordship of 
the Isles. As long as any claimant to the forfeited 
Island honours remained there was danger of an insur- 
rection in the Islands, and the King had evidently 

^ Register of the Privy Seal, Book I., folio 3 ; also fol. 108, 122. 


come to the conclusion that the only cure for these 
disaffected Islanders was expulsion from their 
possessions. This proved, however, a difficult task, 
but James was determined to give effect to his new 
scheme. To strengthen his government in the 
Highlands, he began to parcel out the lands of the 
Lordship of the Isles among his own favourites. 
To John Maclan of Ardnamurchan, presumably 
" for his good and faithful service done and to be 
done" to the King, and " for the taking, trans- 
porting, and handing over to him of the rebels, John 
of the Isles and Glens, John Cathanach, his son, 
and their accomplices," a charter was granted of 
many lands in Isla and Jura.^ To Stewart of Appin 
the King granted a charter of the lands of Glencoe 
and Duror f while Lord Gordon, the eldest son of 
Huntly, received a charter of many lands in 
Lochaber.^ The first step taken in the process of 
expelling the vassals of the Isles was to summon 
them before the Lords of Council for not having 
charters for their lands, but, as might have 
been expected, none appeared in response to the 
summons, and decree accordingly was pronounced 
against them.* This was the signal for rebellion. 
Donald Dubh, who had been kept in custody ever 
since he was a child, was looked upon by the 
Islanders as the heir to the Lordship of the Isles. 
It was also well known to the Government, though 
for political reasons it was not acknowledged, that 
Donald was the lawful son of Angus Og, who, by 
an Act of Parliament in 1476, was declared heir 
to his father, John, Lord of the Isles. 

1 " The Book of Islay," pp. 28-30. 
" Register of the Privy Seal, Book T., fol. 99. 
^ Register of the Great Seal, vol, II., No. 2259. 
■* Acta Com. Con. XI., folio 13. 


The Islanders were now compelled by the harsh 
measures adopted against them to take steps to 
defend their territories, and they naturally turned 
to Donald Dubh as their legitimate leader. Means 
were taken secretly to effect Donald's escape from 
Inchconnel, where he was kept a close prisoner by 
his maternal grandfather, the Earl of Argyle. This 
was accomplished, evidently without much difficulty, 
by the men of Glencoe, who, by what MacVuirich 
calls " a fenian exploit," broke into his dungeon and 
released the heir of Innsegall.^ Donald had no 
sooner been set free than he betook himself to the 
Isles. He was loyally received by the vassals, 
and was forthwith proclaimed Lord of the Isles. 
Torquil Macleod of Lewis, who was one of 
the most powerful of the vassals of the Isles, 
was the first to join the standard of the 
newly proclaimed Island Lord, and being closely 
related to him by marriage, he took Donald 
meanwhile under his protection in his Castle of 
Stornoway. The Macdonald standard was now once 
more set up in the Isles, and the old vassals, with 
very few exceptions, made haste to join it. The 
Macleans, the Camerons, the Mackinnons, the Mac- 
leods, the Macneills, the Macquarries, and others, 
were all ready to strike a blow for the fatherland 
and the heir of the House of Isla, The rebellion 
very soon assumed a formidable appearance, and the 
Islanders, being determined to restore the old Celtic 
order of things, sought the assistance of both England 
and Ireland. This we learn from the proceedings of 
the Parliament which met in 1503, but there is no 
evidence of the assistance sought having ever been 
rendered, and it may have been, after all, nothing 
more than mere suspicion on the part of the Scottish 

'■ MacVuirich, in Reliq. Celt., p. 168. 


Government.^ What defences the Islanders made 
against a Lowland invasion, or whether they waited 
to be attacked in the Isles, we have no means of 
knowing, for very meagre details of this insurrection 
have been preserved. It is very probable, however, 
that the Islanders were themselves the aggressors, 
and that they did not wait to be attacked. As 
evidence of this, we learn from the proceedings 
of the Parliament which met in 1505 that the 
Islanders, under Donald Dubh, invaded the main- 
land hi 1503 and advanced to Badenoch, which they 
wasted with fire and sword.' At the same meeting 
of Parliament a letter was read from John Ogilvy, 
Deputy Sheriff of Inverness, setting forth that he 
had been unable to apprehend Torquil Macleod, 
summoned for assistance given to " Donald Yla 
bastard sone of umquhile Anguss of ye His alsua 
bastard sone of umquhile Johne lord of ye His," and 
for insurrection, and taking part in invading the 
King's lieges in " maner of batell." It appears from 
Ogilvy's letter that Donald Dubh was proclaimed 
not only Lord but King of the Isles, and that his 
ambition was to set up a Celtic Kingdom altogether 
independent of Saxon Scotland.^ The letter also 
refers to the depredations committed by the Islanders 
on the King's lieges on the mainland, and it would 
appear from the whole tone of it that the rebels had 
ravaged the country to a considerable extent before 
their progress was stopped by the Royal forces. 

The King, who was fully aware of the movements 
of the Islanders, recognised the magnitude of the 
revolt against his authority, and without delay took 
the strongest measures to quell the rebellion. He 

^ Acta of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. IL, p. 240. 
2 Ibidem, p. 263. ^ Ibidem, 263-4. 


now probably saw the folly of his harsh proceedings 
in the Isles and the policy inspired by Argyle. A 
meeting of Parliament was summoned to consider 
the situation in the Highlands, and elaborate 
preparations were made to bring the unruly inhabi- 
tants into subjection. Torquil Macleod of Lewis, 
the leader of the vassals in the Isles, was declared 
rebel, and all his lands in the Isles and on the 
Mainland were forfeited to the Crown. ^ Efforts 
were made at the same time to win over the other 
Island leaders, but in vain. In these circumstances, 
the King fell back on his original policy of expelling 
" the broken men," or, in other words, all the 
rebellious vassals of the Isles and their adherents. 
For the carrying out of this measure, commissions 
were given to the Earl of Huntly, Lord Lovat, 
and Munro of Fowlis, but no success attended their 
eiforts, whatever these may have been, and the tide 
of rebellion still rolled on with great fury. At length 
the Government adopted still stronger measures. 
It was resolved to proceed against the rebels both 
by sea and land, and an effort was made once more 
to secure the services of some of the rebel chiefs by 
offering them large bribes, with the alternative of 
the pains and penalties of treason. Lachlan Maclean 
of Do wart had been already forfeited and declared 
traitor for " maintaining, fortifying, and supplying 
of Donald, bastard and unlauchtfull sone of Anguss 
of the Ylis, bastard son to umquhile Johne of the 
Ilis."^ Ewen Allanson of Lochiel had also been 
declared traitor for intercepting the King's letters, 
and the " withhaldin of his messingers and berars of 
ye said letrez in presone."^ The Government ordered 

^ Acta Dominorum Concilii, Book XII., p. 123. 
2 Acts of Pari., vol. II., p. 247. ^ ibidem, p. 248, 


letters to be sent to Maclan, Maclean of Lochbuy, 
Macleod of Dunvegan, Ranald Allanson of Clan- 
ranald, MacNeill of Barra, Mackinnon, Macquarrie, 
and Torquil Macleod, informing them of the forfeiture 
of Laclilan Maclean of Dowart and Ewin Allanson 
of Lochiel for usurping the King's authority and 
offering them, if they should assist in bringing these 
rebels to justice, grants of half their forfeited lands ; 
while in the event of their refusing to give this 
assistance, they shall be " reputt art and part takars 
with thaim and be accusit and followit on tresonne."^ 
The Earl of Huntly undertook to deliver the letters 
of Ranald Allanson and Mackinnon, Argyle those of 
Maclan and Maclean of Lochbuy, while to the Bishop 
of Boss was entrusted the hazardous task of 
delivering the letter of Torquil Macleod of Lewis. ^ 
It is somewhat surprising to find the name of 
Torquil Macleod, so recently declared traitor, 
amongst those to whom overtures were made on 
this occasion by Government. His name was 
included probably on the suggestion of his father-in- 
law, the Earl of Argyle, with the view, even at this 
late hour, of winning him over to the side of law 
and order. Of the fate of the Government missives 
the annals of the time have nothing to say, but it is 
certain that no heed was paid to them by the rebel 

These overtures having entirely failed in their 
object, the Government prepared for an invasion of 
the Highlands and Islands on the most elaborate 
scale. One division of the royal forces, commanded 
by the Earls of Marshall and Argyle, was sent to 

1 Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, vol. II., p. 248. 
- Ibidem, 


invade the Islands from the South by Dumbarton, 
while another division under the command of the 
Earl of Huntly, with the Earl of Crawford and Lord 
Lovat, went North. The Castles of Strome and 
Ellandonan were the most important places of 
defence on the West Coast of Eoss-shire. Huntly 
undertook to reduce these, and to supply, or raise, 
men, to keep them, which was " rycht necessar for 
the danting of the Isles/' on condition that the King 
should furnish a ship and artillery for the purpose.^ 
What success attended the efforts of Huntly to 
reduce the Islesmen we know not, but it is evident 
the artillery necessary for the storming of Ellan- 
donan and Strome were not forthcoming, and that 
without such aid it was v^ain to attack them. 
The Castles of Kintyre had been in possession of 
the King since 1493, but as the rebellion centred 
more in the North than in the South Isles, these 
were for the present practically valueless as places 
of defence. No details of the movements of either 
division of the royal army have been preserved. 
We can, however, infer that little success attended 
their efforts to suppress the rebellion in the Isles. 
We can well understand the difficulties in the way 
of the invading forces owing to the inaccessibility of 
the Islands and their natural defences, but these 
were all in favour of the rebels, who might have 
held out much longer if only unanimity had 
prevailed in their counsels. They lacked the per- 
severance and stolid patience of their opponents, 
and as success did not attend them in their first 
rush for the attainment of their object, they began 
to give way to despair. 

1 Acts of the Pari, of Scotland, vol. II., p. 240-249. 


The King himself now headed a new expedition 
to the Isles, but he had got only as far as Dum- 
barton when an insurrection in the southern division 
of his realm compelled him to return. A naval 
force, however, under Sir Andrew Wood and Robert 
Barton, was despatched to the Isles, while a land 
force was sent under the Earl of Arran. Huntly 
renewed operations in the North evidently with 
greater success than had formerly attended his 
efforts in that region.^ Wood and Barton directing 
their course to the West Coast of Argyleshire, and 
the Island of Mull, reduced the Castle of Cairnburgh 
and otherwise overawed the inhabitants. The flame 
of rebellion in the Isles was thus being gradually 
extinguished, and some of the disaflected chiefs 
were already beginning to show signs of surrender. 
Macleod of Dun vegan, who had recently joined the 
King's party, and Maclan of Ardnamurchan, sent 
messengers to Court informing the King of the state 
of matters in the Isles, and assuring him at the 
same time of their readiness to assist him to the 
utmost of their power to put down the insurrection. 
In response to these representations, James, with 
characteristic energy, at once set about collecting 
an army, at the head of which he marched into 
Argyleshire. John Barton was sent with a fleet to 
the Isles. Whether any resistance was at first 
oflered on the part of the Island Chiefs does not 
appear, but before the King returned South they 
all, with one notable exception, came forward and 
gave in their submission. The rebellion was now 
suppressed, and the King generously extended a 
free pardon to the rebels, all except Torquil Macleod 

^ Treasurer's Accounts for 1505. 



of Lewis. The public records furnish us with only 
the broad outlines of this rebellion, and only vague 
hints are given as to the conduct of the leading 
spirits in the movement. The only reference to the 
part played by Donald Dubh and his followers is 
that to which we have already alluded, and beyond 
this invasion of the district of Badenoch by the 
Islanders, we have not the slightest hint as to the 
manner in which they conducted the war against 
the Saxon. It is evident, however, from the 
repeated attacks m.ade by the Lowland forces, and 
the failure of one expedition after another, that the 
Islanders gave a good account of themselves in the 
fiofht. The unfortunate Donald Dubh, who had 
been partly at least the cause of so much turmoil 
during these years, and who had made so gallant a 
fight for his rights, is again made a prisoner. One 
of the charges made against Torquil Macleod in 1506 
is his refusal to deliver up Donald Dubh to the 
King. He, however, finally surrendered him to 
Lachlan Maclean of Dowart, now on his good 
behaviour, and he in turn gave up the fugitive to 
the King. The King sent Donald a prisoner to the 
Castle of Edinburgh. 

Torquil Macleod still held out, fearing, no doubt 
with good reason, that, if he submitted, the pardon 
which had been extended to the other rebels would 
be withheld from him. After being summoned to 
appear before Parliament and refusing to attend, he 
was again declared traitor, and his lands were for- 
feited. His lands on the mainland, consisting of the 
extensive districts of Coigach and Assynt, were 
given in life -rent to Mackay of Strath naver, for his 
good services aiid assistance in putting down the 


rebellion,^ The Earl of Huntly was sent with a 
force against Torqiiil, and, proceeding to Lewis, he 
besieged and took tlie Castle of Stornoway. Torquil, 
however, managed to make good his escape, and was 
never, so far as ^ve know, brought to task for his 
share in the rebelHon of Donald Dubh. We learn 
from a spirited poem by the family bard, MacCalman, 
the high estimation in which this Lord of Lewis was 
held by his clansmen and followers : — 

'■' Many liis gifts which we might praise, 
Torquil of the fatuous race ; 
His are a hero's strength and vigour, 
Which he brings into the fight. 
I say of him, and say in truth. 
Since I have come so well to know him, 
That never was there of his age 
Better King who ruled in Lewis. 

Not braver of his age was Cuchulliu, 
Not hardier was he than Torquil." - 

In 1508, Andrew, BishojD of Caithness, Ranald 
Allanson of Clanranald, and Alexander Macleod of 
Dunvegan were commissioned by the King to let 
for five years, to sufficient tenants, the lands of 
Lewis, and of Waternish, in Skye, which were 
forfeited by Torquil Macleod of Lewis.'' When the 
extensive estates of the Siol Torquil, consisting of 
Lewis, and the district of Waternish, in the Lord- 
ship of the Isles, Coigach, in the Earldom of Ross, 
and Assynt, in the Earldom of Sutherland, were 
restored to the family, in 1511, the rebel Torquil 
was probably dead, for, if living, he would not have 

^ " Rex, — pro bono servitio in resistatioue et invasioue rebellium suorum, 
— concessit Odoni Makky in Stratlinavern, pro tempore ejus vite, — ten-as de 
Assent et Ladachchogich, i*cc., quequidem regi pertinebant ratione forisfacture 
super Torquellum Makoloid olim de Le%vis," &c. — Eeg. Mag. Sig., vol. II., 3202. 

- The Book of the Dean of Lismore, p. 146. 

3 Reg. Sec. Sig., vol. III., fol. 166. 


allowed his brother, Malcolm, take possession with- 
out striking a blow for his rights.^ Now that 
the last spark of rebellion had been extinguished, 
comparative peace and order prevailed throughout 
the Islands, and it does not appear that the King's 
threat of expelling the " broken men" had been 
carried out, at least to any appreciable extent. A 
very different policy seems to have been pursued. 
In the Parliament which met in 1503 an important 
Act was passed bearing on the Highlands and 
Islands, and which could hardly fail to have in 
time a salutary effect on these regions. This 
Act reformed the administration of justice, which 
hitherto in the Highlands had been under the 
jurisdiction of the old sheriffdoms. In the preamble 
a complaint is made in the strongest terms of the 
lawlessness and disorder that prevailed in the High- 
lands, and especially in the Isles. The new sheriffs 
appointed under the Act were to hold courts at 
Tarbert in Kintyre for the Southern Isles, and at 
Dingwall and Inverness for the North. ^ The Earl 
of Argyle was appointed to the office of King's 
Lieutenant in the Southern Isles, while to the Earl 
of Huntly was committed the administration of 
justice in the North. 

This legislation and the policy pursued generally 
towards the Highlands were, for a time at least, pro- 
ductive of good results. The King now paid special 
attention to the Highland portion of his kingdom, 
and he seems to have been successful at last in 
attaching the Islesmen to his interest. He had 
made himself acquainted with the real condition of 
affairs in the Highlands by his frequent visits, and 
through personal contact with the chiefs he had been 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. IL, No. 3578. ^ Acts of Parliament, vol. II., p. 241. 


able ultimately to restore order and peace among 
them. We cannot praise too highly the King's 
conduct for the conciliatory manner in which he 
acted towards the Islanders after the rebellion of 
Donald Dubh, and it says much for his sagacity as a 
ruler that he had been able, in so short a time, to 
bring about changes so beneficial in circumstances so 
difiicult. There is every evidence that to the end of 
his reign he retained great popularity with all classes 
of his Highland subjects. 

The light which the history of that time throws 
on the position of the different chieftains of the 
Clan Donald and their relationship to the Crown 
waxes somewhat dim after the suppression of 
the rebellion. The King, as we have seen, 
revoked in the year 1498 all the charters which 
he had formerly granted to the vassals of the 
Isles. It appears that during the remainder of 
his reign he made no further grants of lands to 
the Macdonald chieftains, with the exception of 
Ma clan of Ardnamurchan and Kanald Allanson of 
Clanranald. The other chieftains were allowed to 
keep possession of their lands without any title. 
Maclan, largely no doubt influenced by the Earl 
of Argyle, had all along remained firm in his adher- 
ence to the King's cause, and he now reaped the 
reward of his loyalty in large grants of lands which 
the King bestowed upon him in Isla, Kintyre, and 
elsewhere. In 1494, James granted him, for his 
willing obedience and good service, a charter of 
lands in Isla and Morvern — forfeited by the Lord 
of the Isles — with the office of Bailie of the lands 
of Isla, which Maclan had formerly held of John, 
Lord of the Isles. ^ In 1499 the King makes a 

ster of the Great Seal, vol. IL, Nu. 2216. 


fm^tlier grant of lands in Isla and Jura to Maclan, 
extending in all to 200 marklands/ In 1505, "for 
the good, faithful, and willing service done to him. 
by his dear John Makkane of Ardnamurchane," the 
King confirms him in all the lands formerly granted 
to him in Isla and Jura, and in the lower part of 
Ai^dnamurchan and Suanart, with the Castles of 
Mingarry and Dunnyveg, and the office of bailliary 
formerly conferred upon him," Again, in 1506, the 
same lands are confirmed to him.^ Maclan was 
therefore at this time the most influential and 
powerful chieftain of the Clan Donald. 

Of aU the families of the house of Somerled, the 
Macdonalds of Dunnyveg and the Glens fared worst. 
Their history is somewhat obscure during this 
period. The survivors of 1495, escaping from the 
vengeance which overtook Sir John and his son, 
John Cathanach, in that year, took refage in their 
own territory and amongst theu^ relatives in 
the Antrim Glens. Hugh Macdonald, in the un- 
published portion of his manuscript, referring 
probably to the period after King James's death 
at Floddeu, tells how Maclan of Ardnamurchan 
sent his two sons, at the head of a body of men, 
from Isla to the Glens of Antrim to capture Alex- 
ander, the son of John Cathanach. Alexander was 
at Glensheich with 140 men when the Maclans and 
the men of Isla landed. He at once attacked the 
invaders, and after a sanguinary encounter, the Isla 
men were worsted and most of them slain, among 
the latter being Maclan's two sons. During the 
engagement the Smith of Isla, followed by 50 men, 
deserted the Maclans and joined the banner of the 

^ Argjle Charters. 
- Keg. Mag. Sig., vul. 11., No. 2895. =* Ibidem, vol. IL, Xu. 3001. 


Lord of the Glens. Alexander, with his men, 
took the enemy's boats and crossed over to Isla. 
MacNiven, the Constable of Dunnyveg, gave him 
possession of that stronghold, and informed him 
that Maclan was on Island Lochgorm, which 
Alexander forthwith besieged, and Maclan was 
compelled to surrender. Before doing so, however, 
and agreeing to smTender his lands in Isla to 
Alexander, the latter implemented the bargain by 
faithfully promising to marry Maclan's daughter.^ 
Alexander of Dunnyveg appears to have taken no 
part in the rebellion of Donald Dubh, and it is 
certain that from 1495 to the death of King James 
in 1513 he held no lands in Scotland. 

Less perhaps is known of the history of the 
family of Hugh of Sleat at this period than of 
any of the families of Macdonald. John of Sleat, 
the eldest son of Hugh, for some unknown reason 
passed over his estates to the family of Clam^anald, 
and ignored the claims of his brothers. This seems 
altogether strange in view of the diflerences which 
had lasted now for some time between the two 
families over lands in Benbecula, for which Hugh 
of Sleat held a charter. It would appear, for some 
reason or another, that John had quarrelled with his 
brothers, and took these steps to exclude them from 
the succession. But though the conveyance of the 
lands of Hug;h of Sleat to the Clanranald was ratified 
by a charter of confirmation from the King in 1498, 
to which we have abeady referred, it is certain that 
the Clan Uisdean kept possession of their lands both 
in Skye and in North Uist, though they had no 
legal title. John of Sleat himself died at the very 
beginning of the sixteenth century, and he tlierefore 

^ Hugh Macdouald's MS. 


could not have taken any part personally in the 
rebellion of Donald Dubh. Donald Gallach, how- 
ever, the second son of Hugh of Sleat, who became 
head of the family on the death of John, played a 
prominent part in the insular insurrection ; but his 
career was cut short, according to the tradition of 
the country, by the hand of his brother, Gilleasbuig 
Dubh. From a " Respitt " granted by the King to 
Gilleasbuig, and dated at Edinburgh in 1508, it 
would appear that, though accused of other crimes, 
the murder of Donald Gallach was not specially laid 
to his charge. On the contrary, what we find is a 
" Respitt to Archibald Auchonsoune of the Ilys and 
XXVIII. utheris (because of thair grit lawbouris 
deligence and gude and thankfull service done be 
his hienes in the perserving and taking of Auchane 
Duncane Dowsone, Sorle his sone, and Donald Mule 
Makalester, his rebellis, and being at the home ; 
and for the bringing and delivering of thaim to 
be maid to his gude grace (or to quham he ordanis 
thame to be deliverit be his writingis) for the 
slauchter of umquhile Donald Hutchonsoune other- 
wayis called Gauldlauche, bruder to the said 
Archibald. And for all otheris Slauchteris, Here- 
schippis, Birningis, Reffis, Murtheris, &c., before 
the date of his Respitt ; for bhe space of 19 
yeris. Providing alwayis that gif his said Rebellis 
beis not broclit, &c., his Respitt to be of none avail, 
&c. (Subscript per dominum Regem apud Edin- 
burgh)."^ The persons charged here with the murder 
of Donald Gallach are Auchane Duncane Dowsone, 
Sorle his sone, and Donald Mule Makalester, evi- 
dently Gilleasbuig Dubh's former accomplices. There 
need be no donbt, liowever, notwithstanding the 

' Pitcaini's Criminal Trials, vol. 1., p. lOS. 


attempt to shield him on the part of the Govern- 
ment, that Gilleasbuig was guilty, not only of the 
murder of Donald Gallach, but also of the murder of 
Donald Herrach, in North Uist. These two alone 
stood between him and the accomplishment of the 
ambitious scheme which he had conceived of posses- 
sing himself of the family inheritance. In this he 
succeeded, but he soon made himself so obnoxious to 
the adherents of the family that they compelled him 
to surrender his newly acquired dignity. Gilleasbuig 
had to reckon, not only with the Clan Uisdean, but 
also with the Clanranald ; for, as we have seen, the 
King had confirmed to them the lands surrendered 
by John of Sleat, both in Skye and in North Uist. 
Thus, hemmed in on all sides, Gilleasbuig abandoned 
himself to a wild and lawless career, and in a short 
time he and his piratical band became the terror of 
the Western Isles. According to Hugh Macdonald, 
Gilleasbuig was expelled from the North Isles by 
Ranald Bane MacAUan of Clanranald, and having 
taken refuge in the South Isles, he was joined by 
E/Onald Mor and Alester Bearnach MacAlister, with 
whom he remained for three years. With these as 
his lieutenants, Gilleasbuig, at the head of his band, 
plundered all the ships that passed through the 
Southern seas.^ By whatever means, he, however 
succeeded in again taking possession of a portion 
of the territories of Clan Uisdean, and, turning 
King's evidence, he was pardoned by Government 
for his past crimes and misdemeanours. In 
1510, at a Justiciary Court held at Inverness, 
precept of remission is issued to Gilleasbuig Dubh, 
Bailie of Troternish, and others, John MacGille- 
martin and sixty -three others, for common 

^ Hugh Macdonald. 


oppression of the lieges, and for resetting, sup- 
plying, and intercommuning with the King's rebels, 
and also for fire raising/ Shortly after this 
Gilleasbuig is confirmed in the office of Bailie of 
Troternish, which he had assumed, by a Privy 
Council missive, and the tenants of Troternish are 
enjoined not to disturb him in the possession of that 
extensive district.^ Thus Gilleasbuig Dubh became 
at least de facto head and leader of the Clan Uisdean, 
and he continued to occupy that position during the 
remainder of his life. His tenure of his usurped 
jDosition was, however, a short-lived one, for we find 
that, on the 10th of March, 1517, the King gave to 
Lachlan Maclean of Dowart the 4 marklands of 
Scalpa, in the Lordship of the Isles, pertaining to 
His Majesty through the decease of Archibald, 
bastard son of Hugh of Sleat, without legitimate 
heirs.^ According to Hugh Macdonald, Gilleasbuig 
Dubh was murdered while out shooting on Ben Lee, 
in North Uist, by his nephews, Donald Gruamach 
Macdonald Gallaich and Banald Macdonald Her- 

The position of the Clanranald at this period is 
somewhat obscured by the contradictory statements 
of historians in regard to their attitude towards the 
Scottish Government. At one time we find them 
in high favour with the King, but on the change of 
policy by James in 1498, they undoubtedly, like the 
other Islanders, broke out into open revolt against 
his authority. There are indications of their having 
been shortly after this received into royal favour, 
but these are not clear enough to warrant us in 
concluding that they had not rallied round the 

^ Inveruessiana, by Mr Fi-aser-Mackintosh, p. 193. 
2 Reg. Sec. Sig. IV., fol. 70. ^ Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. III., Nu. 134. 


standard of Donald Dubh. There appears to be 
little doubt that they supported to the last the 
pretensions of that unfortunate man. On the 
suppression of the rebellion, however, we find them 
again in favour at Court. The King, on the 23rd 
of August, granted at Stirling to Ranald Allanson, 
of Island Begram, while his father was still alive, 
the lands of Sleat in Skye, with the Castle of 
Dunskaich, the lands of Illeray, Paible, Paiblisgarry, 
Balranald, Hougarry, Watna, Scolpeg, Griminish, 
Vallay, Walls, Islandgarvay, Orinsay, Talmartin, 
Sand, Boreray, and Garrymore, all in North Uist, 
and Lordship of the Isles. ^ Very soon after this the 
Clanranald Chief, Allan MacBuarie, was according 
to Gregory, brought before the King at Blair- Athole 
and executed for some undefinable crime. Gregory 
gives as his authority the Book of Clanranald, but 
MacVuirich makes no reference to the crime, trial, 
or execution, of Allan MacBuarie, though, if the 
traditions of the Clan are to be believed, that 
" demon of the Gael and fierce ravager of Church 
and Cross" richly deserved capital punishment." 
We infer from MacVuirich, on the contrary, that 
Allan was well received by the King, and that 
having obtained a confirmation of his lands by the 
hand of his Majesty, he died at Blair- Athole in 
1509.^ The same story is repeated in almost every 
detail of Allan's son and successor, Banald, who 
having gone to pay homage to the King at Perth, 
died there in 1514.* 

Little or nothing is known of the history of the 
Macdonalds of Glencoe at this time, though we may 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig., vol. IL, No. 2873. 

2 Vide poem by Fiulay, the red-haii-ed bard, ou Allan MacRuarie in " The 
Book of the Dean of Lismore," p. 143. 

' MatVuh-ich in llclici. Celticre, p. 169. 
^ Ibidem, p. 169. 


conclude from their act in liberating Donald Dubh 
from Inchconnel that they played a prominent part 
in the troubles that followed. 

The Macdonalds of Keppoch shared alike the 
fortunes and the reverses of the other branches of 
Clan Donald. They followed the banner of Donald 
Dubh with the other clansmen, and did so probably 
with less compunction on the score of consequences 
than any of the clans, for the gallant Keppochs were 
among the few who acted independently of Royal 
Charters. They were occupied later on with 
domestic differences which fall to be dealt with 
more appropriately in our next rather than in this 

The Chief of Lochalsh, who was a minor at the 
time of his father's death, was too young to take 
any part in the recent insurrection. It seems that 
the King, on one of his visits to the Highlands, 
persuaded the sons of Alexander of Lochalsh to 
accompany him to Edinburgh, no doubt with the 
view of teaching them, among other things, loyalty 
to the Scottish throne. They remained at Court for 
several years, and many references are made to 
" Donald of the His, the King's hensboy," in the 
Treasurer's Accounts of that time. Several items 
appear in these Accounts of payments for Donald, 
in passing to and from the Isles, and for clothes and 
other necessaries, and also for Konald of the Isles, 
who no doubt was another son of Alexander of 
Lochalsh.^ Donald, who, for his residence in the 
Lowlands was called by the Higlilanders " Donald 
Gallda," became a great favourite with the King, 
who, it is said, knighted him on Flodden field. 

' Treasurei-'s Accounts, 1508-13. Acta Doaiinorum Concilii, Book 2-i. 
p. 186. 


The King, besides, gave him possession of bis 
father's lands of Lochalsh. 

We find no reference made to the family of Glen- 
garry at this time in the history of the Clan Donald, 
though we may be sure they had an active share in 
the attempt of the Islanders to set up the Celtic 
supremacy once more in the Isles. They afterwards 
became a powerful family on succeeding by marriage 
to the lands of the Macdonalds of Lochalsh. 

We have thus endeavoured to trace briefly the 
history of the different branches of the Family of 
Macdonald subsequent to the fall of the Lordship of 
the Isles, and the changes brought about by that 
event in their attitude towards the Scottish State. 
With one exception, they had all united in the 
attempt to set up again the Celtic 7'egime in the 
Isles, and though during the lull that followed the 
storm they appear to acquiesce in the new order of 
things, they are far, as we shall soon see, from being 
satisfied with it. To Argyle had been entrusted the 
government of the South Isles, with a plenitude of 
power dangerous in less unscrupulous hands. To 
Huntly was committed the government of the North, 
with equal power over the King's lieges in that 
region. The men to whom the government of the 
Highlands and Islands was thus committed were 
both grasping and unprincipled noblemen, whose 
chief aim was to enrich themselves at the expense of 
the old vassals of the Isles. In these circumstances, 
peace could not be expected to reign long in these 
regions. The King himself did not now visit the 
Highlands so frequently, being engaged elsewhere, 
and in those transactions which proved finally so 
disastrous to the country and to himself To the 
dark field of Flodden James was followed by many 


of the hardy clans of the North, includmg the Mac- 
donalds. Here they fought with the courage and 
bravery characteristic of the sons of the mountains, 
and suffered so severely at the hands of the English 
pikemen as to have been well nigh annihilated. 
Some historians have attributed to the Highlanders 
a large share in bringing about the defeat of the 
Scottish army at Flodden. Eager to engage in a 
hand-to-hand fight, so characteristic of Highland 
warfare, they broke their ranks and threw them- 
selves with great violence on the foe. Notwith- 
standing this irregularity on the part of the 
Highlanders, the defeat of the Scottish army was 
brought about mainly by the wrong-headedness of 
the King himself, who paid the penalty of his 
obstinacy with his life. On the morning after the 
battle, the body of the gallant James was found 
among the thickest of the slain. The character of 
the King in the administration of the aifairs of his 
kingdom deserves, in many respects, our admiration. 
Great activity and earnestness, combined with much 
patience and moderation, characterised most of his 
efforts to restore order and good government 
throughout his kingdom, and it is safe to say that 
none of his predecessors had been altogether so 
successful in the government of the Highlands and 
Islands.^ The King's death had the effect of 
bringing disorder and confusion into every depart- 
ment of the State. The removal of so strong a 
personality from the chief place in the counsels of 
the nation had an immediate and inju.rious effect 
on the condition of his Highland subjects. 

^ In the Register of the Great Seal and Treasurer's Accounts for the years 
1488-1513, wc have ample evidence of the King's administrative powers and 
indomitable energy. 


The surviving Highlanders had no sooner returned 
from Flodden than the standard of rebellion was 
again raised, and Sir Donald of Lochalsh was pro- 
clainied Lord of the Isles. It is not necessary at 
this stage to enter with any minuteness into the 
claims of Sir Donald Gallda to the Lordship of the 
Isles. Donald Dubh still remains a prisoner in 
Edinburgh Castle, but even after him there were 
others who might put forward claims at least as 
good as those of Sir Donald of Lochalsh. Sir Donald 
himself, it is said, affirmed that he claimed the Lord- 
ship of the Isles for Donald Dubh. At a meeting of 
Islesmen, held at Kyleakin, Alexander of Dunnyveg, 
according to Hugh Macdonald, proposed Donald 
Gruamach of Sleat for the Lordship of the Isles.^ It 
seems to us that at this time it was not a question 
with the Islanders who had the best claims among 
the competitors to the Island Lordship. What they 
desired above all was a change in the government of 
the Isles, and they were, therefore, prepared to rally 
round any leader likely to bring about this result. 
This explains the readiness with which they joined 
the standard of Sir Donald of Lochalsh. The Mac- 
leods of Lewis and Harris, Maclean of Dowart, 
Alexander of Dunnyveg, Chisholm of Comer, and 
Alexander Maclan of Glengarry now rally round the 
newly proclaimed Lord of the Isles. Sir Donald, at 
the head of a considerable force, and assisted by 
Alexander of Glengarry and Chisholm of Comer, 
oj)ened his campaign by invading the lands of John 
Grant of Freuchy, in Urquhart, which he laid waste 
with fire and sword. Having next directed his 
attention to the Castle of Urquhart, he besieged it 
and expelled the garrison. According to Mr William 

^ Hugh Macdouald, iu Collectanea cle Rebus Albanicis, p. 322. 


Mackay, in his " Urquhart and Glenmoriston," the 
spoil that fell to Sir Donald was rich and varied, 
and consisted of household furniture and victuals, of 
the value in all of more than £100 ; while the booty 
from the different lands consisted of 300 cattle and 
1000 sheep, 740 bolls of bear and 1080 bolls of oats. ^ 
Sir Donald kept possession of the Castle and lands 
of Urquhart until he made his peace with the Regent 
Albany, in 1515, and although Grant of Freuchy 
obtained a decree against him for " Tua Thousand 
pund with the mair," it appears the debt was never 

The rebellion proceeded apace, and raged with 
great fury in the Islands. Maclean of Dowart 
seized the royal Castle of Cairnburgh in Mull, and 
Macleod of Harris seized the Castle of Dunskaich 
in Skye, which they held for the new Lord of the 
Isles. Alarmed at the formidable appearance which 
the insurrection now assumed, the Kegent Albany 
took immediate steps to crush it. The Earl of 
Argyle was commissioned by the Council to take 
proceedings against Lachlan Maclean of Dowart 
and others in the South Isles. Munro of Fowlis 
and Mackenzie of Kintail were employed to harass 
Sir Donald in the North ; while Lochiel and 
Mackintosh were appointed guardians of Lochaber. 
The Council besides caused letters to be written 
to the chiefs whose lands lay along the mainland 
coast urging them to resist the landing of the 
Islesmen. All these measures seemed to have no 
appreciable effect in quelling the rebellion. Maclan 
of Ardnamurchan, who had still retained his old 
loyalty, was commissioned to treat with the less 
rebellious section of the insurgent Islesmen, promis- 

^ " Urquhart and Glenmoriston," p. 85. 


ing on behalf of the Regent pardon for past 
transgressions, and offering favours to such as 
should shew themselves willing to submit. It 
would appear that Maclan's interposition had the 
desired effect on several of the Islesmen. Argyle 
also had succeeded in persuading the Macleans and 
others in the South Isles to submit to the Regent. 
On September 6th, 1515, John, Duke of Albany, 
Regent of the Kingdom, granted to Lachlan 
Maclean of Dowart and Alexander Macleod of 
Dunvegan, their servants, landed men, gentlemen, 
and yeomen, a remission for all past crimes, and in 
particular for besieging and taking the Castles of 
Cairnburgh and Dunskaich, and holding them 
against his authority, and for assisting Sir Donald 
of Lochalsh and his accomplices, the remission 
to last till January, 1516.^ The arch rebel. 
Sir Donald of Lochalsh, himself and Albany were 
shortly thereafter reconciled. So we have, on the 
23rd August, 1515, " Ane Respit maid be avise 
of the Governour to Donald of the His of 
Lochalsh Kynt and with him uther thre scoir of 
persons, his kynnsmen, freindis, or servandis, for 
all maner of actionis, and crimes, bigane to cumand 
repare to Edinburgh or ony uther place within the 
realms to commune with the said governour and do 
thair eirrandes and return agane ; for the space of 
IX dayis next to cum after the date hereof"^ 
Disputes between Maclan of Ardnamurchan and 
Sir Donald having been submitted to neutral 
parties for adjustment, the last spark of rebellion 
was extinguished. The aspect of affairs now seemed 
to augur well for the peace of the Isles. The 
Government had been most lenient with the rebels, 

' Orig. Par. Soot., p. 32-3, " Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, vol. I., p. 533. 



and with none more so than with the leader himself, 
who, as we shall see presently, least of all deserved 
the pardon that had been extended to him. 

It is difficult to account for the conduct of Sir 
Donald. Evidently he was not satisfied with the 
award of the arbiters in the dispute between him 
and Maclan of Ardnamurchan, and the old feud 
between them was revived. At all events, the 
restless chief of Lochalsh again began to show signs 
of disaffection, and the quarrel between him and 
Maclan was made a pretext for hostilities in the 
Northern Highlands. Besides, a favourable oppor- 
tunity to strike another blow for the Lordship of 
the Isles had now come in the rebellion of Lord 
Home, with whom Sir Donald appears to have 
been in league for English assistance.^ Any pretext 
seemed to serve the Knight of Lochalsh in raising 
the standard of revolt, and every fresh opportunity 
was taken to gain the object of his ambition, which 
seems to have been nothing less or more tlian the 
restoration of the Lordship of the Isles in his own 
person. He succeeded in gaining the adherence of 
some of the Island chiefs by making them believe 
that he had been appointed by Government Lieuten- 
ant of the Isles. His object, in the first instance, 
was to punish Maclan of Ardnamurchan for, among 
other things, the murder of Alexander of Lochalsh 
at Orinsay. He invaded Maclan's lands accordingly, 
took possession of the Castle of Mingarry, which he 
razed to the ground, and wasted the district with 
fire and sword. His principal supporters, Lachlan 

^ " Remission to Alexander Mackloid of Dunvegane, and all his kinsmen, 
friends, and servants, &c., for their assistance and supply given to Donald of 
the Isles of Lochalsh Knight at the time of his being with Alexander Lord 
Hume in his treasonable deeds ; and for all other crimes, offences, and actions 
whatsoever without any exception." — Pitcairn, vol. I., p. 534, 


Maclean of Dowart and Alexander Macleod of 
Dunvegan, now understood the real motive that 
actuated Sir Donald's conduct, which had become 
so violent that they resolved to apprehend him and 
hand him over to the Government. He, however, 
succeeded in making good his escape ; but his two 
brothers, who seem to have been art and part with 
him in his recent violent proceedings, were captured 
by Maclean of Dowart and taken to Edinburgh, 
where, after trial before the Council, they paid 
the extreme penalty of the law. 

Alexander Macleod of Dunvegan, and the Mac- 
leans of Dowart and Lochbuy, who had been led by 
the pretensions of the Knight of Lochalsh to join in 
his rebellion, now hastened to give in their submis- 
sion to the Regent and Council, and offered their 
services against Sir Donald. They sent separate 
petitions to the Council, in which they asked a free 
pardon for past offences, and especially for assisting 
Sir Donald of Lochalsh in his recent treasonable 
doings, which was granted on the 12th of March, 
1517.^ The petitioners further demanded grants of 
lands in Mull, Tiree, and Skye,^ as the price of the 
services to be rendered by them to the Government. 
These lands^ with few exceptions, the Council agreed 
to give them possession of, and as proof of their 
earnest desire to aid the Regent against the rebels, 
Macleod and the Macleans demanded the forfeiture 
of Sir Donald Gallda as the first step towards the 
restoration of peace in the Isles. Lachlan Cattanach 

1 Reg. Secret! Sigilli, vol. V., foUo 101. 

^ Alexander Macleod was continued as Crown tenant of the extensive 
district of Troternish, in Skye. Lachlan Cattanach demanded " the hundreth 
merk landis in the lie of Tery and utheris landis in the Mule." "As to the 
landis of Mul and utheri.s landis that the said Lauchlane had of befoir of the 
Kingis grace now desirit in few ferm be him." — Acta Dom. Con., vol. XXIX. 
fol. 130. 


demanded a remission for himself, " kynnsmen, 
servandis, frendis, and partakars, that is, Donald 
Makalane, Gillonan Maknele of Barry, Nele Mak- 
ynnon of Mesnes, Downsleif Makcura of Ulway, and 
Lauchlan MacEwin of Ardgour, for all crimes be 
past." After specifying the lands which he desired 
the Regent and Council to give him possession of, 
and the conditions on which these were to be held, 
the petitioner recommends the "justifying (execu- 
tion) of Donaldis twa brethir and forfactour aganis 
the said Donald ;" but there is no desire expressed 
in regard to the " destroying of the wicked blood of 
the Isles," with which Gregory credits Lachlan 
Cattanach.^ The Earl of Argyle at the same time 
petitioned the Council, craving a commission of 
lieutenandry over the Isles, " for the honour of the 
realm and the common-weal in time to come," which 
was granted.^ The Council further gave him full 
power to grant remission for past offences, and 
restore their lands to such of the Island Chiefs as 
should deliver hostages, or find other security for 
the payment of Crown dues, " because the men of 
the Isles are fickle of mind, and set but little value 
upon their oaths and written obligations." From 
this immunity, however, " Sir Donald of the His 
his brethir and Clan and Clan-donale" were excluded. 
The Earl, whose commission was limited to three 
years, was instructed by the Council to " persew 
Donald of the His and expell him out of the His 
and hald him thairout, and sege his hous incontinent 
and do at his utter pouer," but no success seems to 
have attended his efforts in this direction. 

' The petition of Lachlan Cattanach Maclean is given in fuU from the 
A.cis of the Lords of Council, vol. XXIX., fol. 130, in Mr J. P. Maclean's 
History of the Clan Maclean, pp. 68, 69. 

2 Acta Dominorum Concilii, vol. XXIX., fol. 210. 


The Knight of Lochalsh had meanwhile taken 
refuge in the Isles, and notwithstanding the deter- 
mined opposition of his recent allies, he still seems to 
have had a considerable following. He was evidently 
not satisfied with the punishment he had already 
been able to inflict on his enemy, Maclan of Ardna- 
murchan. Maclan had made himself obnoxious not 
only to his own clan, but also to all those who still 
remained faithful to the Family of the Isles. It 
was against him, therefore, that Sir Donald in the 
first place directed his energies, and he resolved to 
make every effort to crush him. Besides the murder 
of his father, Sir Alexander, which he had not 
sufficiently avenged on Maclan, that chieftain was 
also one of the most powerful among those who 
opposed Sir Donald's pretensions to the Lordship of 
the Isles. During the interval in his operations 
which followed the siege of Mingarry, Sir Donald, it 
would appear, had put himself under the protection 
of Macleod of Lewis, and assisted by that chief, 
Macleod of Raasay, and Alexander of Dunnyveg, 
now that a favourable opportunity had come, he 
opened his campaign afresh in the district of Ardna- 
murchan. After several skirmishes, Sir Donald 
and Maclan met in bloody conflict at a place called 
Craiganairgid, in Morven. Maclan and his followers 
were defeated with great slaughter, while Maclan 
himself, and his two sons, Angus and John Suan- 
artach, were found among the slain. ^ Sir Donald, 
after this victory, was again proclaimed Lord of the 
Isles, and many of the Islanders flocked to his 
standard. The Regent and Council at once took 
measures to put down the rebellion, which seemed 
now to have assumed a more formidable appearance 

' Hugh Macdouald iii Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 324. 


than ever, and proposals were made to have the 
rebel of Lochalsh forfeited for his treason. While 
these preparations were going on, the restless Sir 
Donald of Lochalsh died, according to MacVuirich, 
at Cairnburgh, in Mull, and with him the male line 
of Celestine became extinct.^ The character of Sir 
Donald Gallda stands out before us in the sketch of 
his brief career given in this chapter as that of a 
bold and resolute clansman, who possessed in an 
unenviable degree the restless ambition and self- 
assertion characteristic of the chiefs of Clan Oholla. 
His residence at the Scottish Court, and the favours 
bestowed upon him by the King, only made this 
scion of the House of Isla more determined than 
ever to restore and maintain the ancient prestige of 
his house against the enemies of his race. Now 
that through his death the Lochalsh confederacy 
was dissolved, the Council did not feel called upon 
to take any harsh proceedings against the rebels, 
and for some vears to come the Isles are free from 
the presence of a claimant to the honours and 
dignities of the House of Macdonald. 

^ According to Hugh Macdouald, Sir Douald of Lochalsh died on the 
Island of Teinlipeil, in Tu'ee. 




Rise of the House of Argyle — Bonds of Manrent to Clan Donald. 
— Escape of James V., and change of Policy. — Troubles in 
the North and South Isles. — Donald (iruamach. — Alexander 
of Dunnyveg. — Feud of Clan Iain Mhoir with Argyle. — The 
Clan Maclean unite with Clan Iain Mhoir against Argyle. — 
Argyle Invades Maclean Territory. — Cawdor's Proposals for 
Pacifying Isles. — Mission of Robert Hart. — Mission of Argyle 
and Murray.— The King takes the Isles in hand. — Alexander 
of Dunnyveg Submits. — Argyle's Disappointment. — Alexander 
of Dunnyveg's Indictment. — Argyle's Disgrace. — Rebellion of 
Donald Gorme of Sleat. — Siege of Ellandonan. — Death of 
Donald Gorme. — Royal Progress through Isles. — Captivity of 
Chiefs. — Death of James V. — Escape of Donald Dubh. — 
Scottish Parties. — Liberation of Chiefs. — Donald Dubh 
Invades Argyle and Lochaber. — Correspondence with Henry 
VIII.— Proclamation against Rebels. — Donald Dubh and 
Eai'l of Lennox. — Failure of Rebellion. — Death of Donald 
Dubh. — Pretensions of James of Dunnyveg to the Lordship. 
— Abdication of Claims. 

Sm Donald Gallda of Lochalsh, who died in 1519, 
left no son, and this house, so closely allied by kin 
to the Lords of the Isles, came to an end in the male 
line, although the family claims to the Earldom of 
Ross— or at least to the representation of that for- 
feited honour — were perpetuated by the marriage of 
Sir Donald's daughter with one of the Glengarry 
chiefs. Although one source from which aspirants 
to the old honours of the Family of the Isles might 
arise was forever closed, yet time was to show that 
strenuous efforts would not be wanting for the 


establishment, not only of the Lordship of the Isles, 
but of the Earldom of Ross as well. 

For a number of years after the death of Sir 
Donald Gallda, the most striking feature in the 
history of the Western Isles of Scotland is the 
rapid and widespread advance of the power and 
influence of the House of Campbell. The principal 
heads of that House, Colin Campbell, Earl of 
Argyle, and his brothers, Sir John Campbell of 
Calder and Archibald Campbell of Skipness, were 
exercising all the astuteness and political craft so 
characteristic of the family, with the view of con- 
solidating their influence in those regions, North 
and South, in which the Lords of the Isles had once 
borne almost sovereign sway. In 1517 Argyle had 
received a Royal Commission as Lieutenant of the 
Isles, and this office involved the possession of 
immense authority in a quarter where the power of 
the central Government had been exercised in a 
spasmodic and intermittent fashion. Bonds of man- 
rent and maintenance were particularly rife at this 
period within the Lordship of the Isles, showing 
that, with the passing away of the old order, society 
in that region being insufficiently protected by the 
Crown, souo-ht to save itself during the transition 
to greater security and a more settled state of 
things. In these bonds of manrent, both in the 
North and South Highlands, the Argyle Family was 
in a preponderance of instances the superior. The 
Earl of Argyle received a bond of manrent from 
Alexander Makranald of Glengarry and North 
Morar, and his brothers were equally indefatigable 
in establishing by similar means the power and 
position of their House. ^ In 1521," Donald 

' Gregozy, p. 12G. - Tliaues uf Cawdor ad tcnipus. 


Gruamach, son of Donald Gailach of Dunskaith, in 
Skye, and head of the Clan Uisdean, gave a bond 
of manrent to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor. In 
1520, Dugall Makranald of Ellantirrim gives a bond 
of service to the Knight of Cav^dor,^ while in the same 
year his successor in the command of the Clanranald, 
Alexander McAllan, with his hand at the pen, signs 
a similar instrument, undertaking the same kind of 
engagement.^ In the same year Alexander of 
Dunnyveg signs a bond of manrent, gossipry, and 
service also to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor.^ It is 
thus evident that the House of Argyle was using 
every means that lay to its hand for assuming the 
functions and filling the position left vacant by the 
forfeiture of the Island Lordship, while the cadet 
families of the fallen House of Isla were in a measure 
compelled to cultivate the favour and goodwill of 
these politic and ambitious chiefs. It was a time of 
triumph for the Clan Campbell, whose star was now 
steadily in the ascendant, while the Clan Donald, 
with the loss of their ruling family, had fallen upon 
evil times and evil tongues, " with danger and with 
darkness compassed round." 

In order to review with clearness the progress of 
events from 1520 to 1528, it may be desirable, in 
the meantime, to pass on to the latter year, in the 
course of which an incident occurred which exercised 
a far-reaching influence upon contemporary events, 
and in the light of which the past, as well as the 
future, becomes clearer to the historian's gaze. 
Previous to 1528, James Y., who was but a child 
of two when his father fell at Flodden, had been 
virtually a prisoner in the hands of the Earl of 
Angus, who acted in the capacity of Hegent. In 

^ Thanes of Cawdor ad tempus. ^ ibi,j, 3 Jbjd, 


that year, however, James, having attained to the 
age of seventeen, succeeded in effecting his escape, 
and having selected a new set of Councillors, the 
policy of the executive underwent a remarkable 
change — a change, in some respects, fraught with 
injurious effects to the peace and prosperity of the 
Isles. During the King's subjection to the power 
of Angus, various grants of land had been bestowed 
upon different individuals, no doubt for the purpose 
of attaching them to the party of the E-egent. The 
Government that came into power on the King's 
recovery of his freedom reversed the policy of 
their predecessors. They took the view that 
by the prodigality with which these grants had 
been bestowed the revenues of the crown were 
dilapidated and the royal estate impoverished. 
Hence all gifts of land bestowed during the King's 
minority, and while he was unable to give his 
consent, were pronounced null and void, and it 
was announced that no further grants should be 
made without the sanction of the King's Council 
and of the Earl of Argyle, the King's Lieutenant 
in the Isles. ^ This change of policy, this breach 
of national faith, as it may with justice be called, 
was the immediate cause of much discontent among 
the Hebrideans. If, in some instances, the reversal 
was equitable, the general character of the proceed- 
ings was such as to discredit the public honour 
and impair the confidence of the lieges in the 
stability and continuity of the national righteous- 
ness. In the Isle of Skye, the transference of the 
district of Troternish, part of the patrimony of 
the Clan Uisdean, to the Siol Tormoid branch of 
the Clan Macleod, was the prolific source of strife 

^ CoUectauea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 155. 


and bloodshed. In the minority of James V.,. 
Macleod had received a lease as crown tenant of 
the lands in question, as well as of those of Sleat 
and North Uist, all of which, since the charter of 
1449, were the undisputed possessions of Hugh, 
son of Alexander, Earl of Ross, and his descend- 
ants. By this charter — granted by John, Earl of 
Ross, and confirmed by the Crown in 1495 — the 
Clan Uisdean were rightly determined to abide, 
and although John, Hugh's son, had, in 1498, 
resigned the patrimony of his family in favour of 
the Chief of Castle Tirrim, the latter does not 
seem to have taken actual possession, and it is not 
strange, although the Sleat Family regarded that 
transaction, as well as the Regent Angus' later 
grant to Macleod, as a usurpation of their just 
and lawful rights. Under the leadership of Donald 
Gruamach, and with the aid of Torquil Macleod of 
Lewis, half-brother to that chief, the Clan Uisdean 
were successful in expelling the Dunvegan Chief 
and his clan from Troternish, and by the same 
forcible means prevented their taking possession 
of the lands of North Uist and Sleat. Donald 
Gruamach, on the other hand, rendered powerful 
aid to John MacTorquil in seizing the barony of 
Lewis, of which his father had been forfeited in 
1506, but which, with the assistance of his vassals, 
he was able to hold during the remainder of his 

The grant of Troternish, Sleat, and North Uist 
to Macleod of Dunvegan was, with other similar 
gifts bestowed in the minority of James V. , revoked ; 
but as these lands did not revert, at anyrate by 
legal process, to their hereditary owners, the Clan 

^ Gregory, p. 131. 


Uisdean, the islands continued to be the scene of 
strife and discontent. The Family of Sleat were 
evidently regarded by the Government as the lineal 
representatives of the House of Isla, and the policy 
of repression, so consistently adopted towards them 
after the forfeiture of John, probably arose from the 
suspicion that, if allowed to flourish and hold terri- 
torial possessions, they might perchance at some 
future time endeavour to revive the ancient princi- 
pality of the Isles. We thus see the evils of the 
transition from the ancient order of the Lordship of 
the Isles to the control and authority of the Crown 
at their worst in the Isle of Skye, and the net result 
of the confusions of the period as regards the family 
most nearly akin to the House of Isla is found to be, 
that the powerful influence of the State is employed 
to withhold from them their patrimonial rights, and, 
after the manner of their kinsmen of Keppoch, they 
are compelled to hold their lands by the most ancient 
of all instruments of tenure, their strong arms and 
trusty claymores. 

The troubles which in the North followed the 
disappearance of the ancient government of the Isles 
are also paralleled in the South Isles. The Chief of 
Clan Iain Mhoir early in the sixteenth century was 
Alexander, son of John Cathanach, a man who seems 
to have inherited a considerable share of the force of 
character and resolute independence characteristic of 
his sires, and was destined to play no inconsiderable 
part in the Highland politics of the reign of James 
V. By far the greater portion of his influence and 
possessions lay in the Routes and Glens of Antrim, 
where he and others of his line often found a welcome 
haven when hard pressed by the Scottish Power, 
Yet we may be sure that in his case, as in that of 


other members of his family, the tendrils of affection 
clung tenaciously to the island home with which 
so many proud memories M^ere associated, and he 
strove in the midst of many difficulties, which he 
eventually overcame, to retain an interest in its soil. 
In 1528, we find Alexander of Dunnyveg in rebellion 
against the Crown. That he and his tribe received 
grants of Crown lands in Isla and elsewhere during 
the minority of James V., in addition to the 60 
merklands which were the patrimony of the Family 
of Dunnyveg, seems sufficiently well attested. That 
portion of Isla and of the other islands, which had 
been the immediate and direct property of the 
Lords of the Isles, became, after the forfeiture in 
1493, the legal property of the Crown, though we 
do not find that these were actually appropriated 
for many years thereafter. Indeed, at the period in 
question, 1528, many of these lands were in the 
possession of the Earl of Argyle and his brother, the 
Thane of Cawdor, but upon what conditions we 
are not able to say. It is clear that the House 
of Argyle had the disposal of these lands in 1520, 
for in a band of gossipry and manrent between 
the Thane of Cawdor and Alexander of Dunnyveg, 
the Thane engages that, for certain services he exacts 
from the former, he will give him a grant of 45 
merklands in Isla, with the 15 merklands of Jura 
and the lands of Colonsay, the same to run for a 
period of five years. ^ The indenture was made at 
Glenan in the Taraf, the 7th May, 1520. It seems 
that the bond of gossipry and manrent did not last 
to the end of the five years during which it was to 
run, and so far as can be judged from contemporary 
records, the Thane of Cawdor was to blame for the 

' Thanes of Cawdor, 


breach of peace and amity which caused the pre- 
mature dissolution of the agreement, for on the 15th 
December, 1524, there is a remission to the Thane of 
Cawdor for having wasted the lands of Colonsay,^ 
and there seems to be no indication that there was 
any aggression or violence on the part of the lord of 
Dunnyveg to provoke the Thane to such serious 
reprisals. This was the beginning of strained rela- 
tions between Alexander and the House of Argyle, 
and subsequent events would have served to intensify 
the hostility. Whether or not the lease of Colonsay 
was renewed at the expiry of five years, it seems 
that it remained in the Family of Dunnyveg, not- 
withstanding the policy of revoking grants which 
the new Administration adopted in 1528. When it 
is borne in mind that after this date the Earl of 
Argyle used all his powerful influence to procure the 
revocation of all grants from 1513, the year of the 
King's accession, up to the time he took the reins 
of Government into his own hands, it is in the 
highest degree probable that Alexander's quarrel 
with the new order, and his resistance to the policy 
of the Government, would have originated in some 
attempted breach of public faith involved in the 
revocation of a grant of land, probably the island of 
Colonsay, as already indicated. 

When Alexander of Dunnyveg is found in 1528 
in arms against the Crown, or, to put it more 
correctly, against the Campbell direction of the 
policy of the State, he is receiving the hearty and 
powerful support of the Clan Maclean. This Clan, 
which had grown in numbers and in property under 
the generous sway of the Clan Donald chiefs, had 
for a long time been on terms of cordial friendship 

^ Thanes of Caw 'or, 1524. 


with the Clan Iain Mhoir, and might not unnaturally 
be expected to support them in the time of need. 
But at this particular juncture the Macleans had a 
feud of their own with the Campbells, upon whom, 
if a favourable opportunity arose, they were deter- 
mined to wreak the most signal vengeance. 
Lauchlan Cattanach, the Chief of Maclean, was one 
of the darkest and most repulsive characters in the 
whole history of the Isles. The great majority of 
the Highland Chiefs, though turbulent and restless, 
were seldom lacking in a certain chivalrous gener- 
osity and honour measured by the canons of their 
day. Lauchlan Cattanach was a notable exception 
to this rule. He was selfish and treacherous, as 
well as lacking in personal courage, and it needed 
all the loyalty of the Clan to his position as 
hereditary Chief to reconcile them to his rule, or 
even to refrain from deposing him from the headship 
of his race. There is no one indeed who has drawn 
his portrait in darker colours than the partial 
historian of his clan,^ Lauchlan had taken to wife 
the Lady Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of Archibald, 
second Earl of Argyle. We are not astonished to 
find that their tempers proved incompatible, and 
that, especially when no children blessed their union, 
the relations of the ill-matched pair proved unhappy 
in the extreme. For the romantic story which forms 
the basis of "The Family Legend," as well as of 
Thomas Campbell's ballad of " Glenara," we are 
indebted to the authority already referred to. It 
was alleged, but altogether on insufficient grounds, 
that the Lady of Maclean had conspired to take her 
husband's life by poison. The real cause for his 
desire to do away with his wife was, as future 

^ The History of the Clan Macleau, by a Seauuachie, pp. 25-31, 


events were to prove, that he conceived a violent 
passion for the daughter of one of his vassals, 
Maclean of Treshnish, Thus it was that the Lady 
of Dowart was one evening invited to take an 
excursion on the water in a galley manned by some 
of the myrmidons of the Chief, who were cog- 
nisant of the dark secret. The unsuspecting lady 
agreed to the proposal, but on reaching a solitary 
rock two miles to the east of Dowart Castle, and in 
the direction of Lismore, and which was only 
uncovered at half-tide, she was left there to be 
drowned by the advancing waters. The scene of 
the intended murder is still known as Creag-na- 
Baintighearn — the Lady's Rock. Fortunately the 
plot was disclosed by a remorseful conspirator, and 
before the fatality could occur, a boat was launched 
by some of the Chief's bodyguard, who, rowing 
rapidly to the scene of the outrage, found the victim 
seated on the rock, with the sea already beginning 
to break over her, and conveyed her to Lorn, where 
she was safely landed, and whence she soon found 
her way to Inverary, the residence of her brother 
the Earl of Argyle. This incident was supposed to 
have on'o-inated the feud between the Macleans and 
the Argyle Family, although, undoubtedly, it was 
aggravated by the policy of the Government 
regarding the Maclean possessions in the Isles. 
Vengeance soon overtook the would-be murderer. 
Some time in 1523^ Lauchlan Cattanach was staying 
over night somewhere in the neighbourhood of Edin- 
burgh. John Campbell, Thane of Cawdor, his 
brother-in-law, having become cognisant of his 
whereabouts, broke into his apartment under cover 
of night, accompanied by a number of his followers, 

1 Diurnal of Occurrents in Scotland, 


and surprised and assassinated him in bed, and what 
added ag-gravation to the bloody deed was, that the 
Chief of Maclean was at the time travelling under a 
safe conduct from the Government, of which the 
worthy Thane was regarded as a strenuous supporter. 
On the loth December following, we find the Thane 
exerting his influence successfully with the Govern- 
ment to obtain a remission for the deed, he and his 
accomplices undertaking to make such amends to 
the friends of the slaughtered Chief, as might prove 
satisfactory to the authorities. Though Lauchlan 
Cattanach was very far removed from being an ideal 
character, or beloved chief, he was still the head of 
the Clan Maclean, and the fatal blow was felt as a 
deadly insult by every member of the tribe, ^ 

The foregoing episode in the history of the Do wart 
Family has been narrated here for two reasons. 
First of all it shows that, notwithstanding the 
wariness and political talent of the Family that 
had so largely supplanted the House of Tsla, the 
feeling against them in the Western Isles, instead 
of becoming favourable, was becoming more accent- 
uated in its bitterness, acquiring, in fact, a volume 
and intensity which might in time prove fatal to 
their supremacy. The incident has also been 
referred to for the purpose of showing that the 
Lord of Dunnyveg was not likely to be isolated 
in any stand he might propose to take against the 
selfish and aggressive policy of the Argyles. 

It was only after several years had elapsed since 
the murder of Lauchlan Cattanach, by Campbell of 
Cawdor, that a favourable opportunity arose for 
vengeance. In 1529 the Clan Donald South and 
the Macleans united their forces against the common 

^ Thanes of Cawdor ad tempus. Letter from Donald Dubh's Council. 



foe. The combined clans burst with fire and sword 
into the regions of Bosneath, Lennox, and Craignish, 
the records of the time accusing the invaders of 
having plundered and slain many of the inhabitants 
of these districts.^ The Clanranald-bane of Largie, 
a Kintyre branch of the Clan Donald South, were, 
conjointly with the Macdonalds of Dunnyveg, 
involved in this invasion. The Chief of the Camp- 
bells and his vassals^ were of course resentful of this 
attack upon tlieir territories, and we find them with 
little delay having their revenge, not on this 
occasion upon the Macdonalds, but upon the 
Macleans, whose lands they specially selected for 
invasion and attack. In the same year — 1529 — 
they invaded Morvern and the islands of Tiree and 
Coll, burning and slaying and destroying wherever 
they went. For this Campbell raid there was a 
remission by Government on March I7th, 1532, to 
Archibald, Earl of Argyle, and eighty-two others, 
the King and his Council having dispensed with the 
General Act on condition of the Earl satisfying the 
kin of Donald Ballo McAuchin, Donald Crum 
McCownane, and Farquhar McSevir, and others 
having lawful claims.^ It is evident that on this 
occasion the MacCailein Mor did not act in his 
public capacity as the King's lieutenant of the Isles, 
or punish the rebellious and disloyal lieges in the 
name of his royal master. We look in vain for that 
lofty national spirit which their modern apologists 
claim for the House of Argyle, and find instead 
thereof the old-fasliioned method characteristic of 
the age and country. 

In this same year Sir John Campbell, Thane of 
Cawdor, on behalf of his brother Colin, Earl of 

1 Reg. Priv. Seal IX., fol. 18. - Ibid. 

^ Pitcairu's Criminal Trials, vol. IL, ad tempus. 


Argyle, Lieutenant of the Isles and the adjacent 
bounds, made certain j^roposals to the Government 
for the suppression of the King's rebels. The 
righteous soul of this single-hearted patriot and 
supporter of law and order, the assassin of Lauchlan 
Cattanach, who had wasted and ravaged the island 
of Colonsay, and whose nephew, Archibald, the heir 
to the Earldom, had the same year invaded and 
pillaged the country of Maclean, is greatly exercised 
at the terrible dispeace prevailing in the Scottish 
Isles. Though he himself had called up the spirits 
of anarchy from the " vasty deep," he stands 
astonished and aghast at the result. He is 
seized with great searching of heart as to the 
best methods of producing social tranquillity, and 
yearns to sacrifice himself upon the altar of 
Scottish nationality by offering to bring these 
disturbed regions in subjection to the Crown. 
Inspired by such a patriotic resolve, this scion of 
the House of Argyle made certain proposals to 
the King, which were undoubtedly of a thorough 
and adequate nature. He suggested tliat the 
house-holders of Dumbartonshire and Henfrew- 
shire, and of the bailiaries of Carrick, Kyle, 
and Cunningham, should be ordered to assemble 
at Lochranza, in Arran, with victuals for twenty 
days, to meet the Earl of Argyle and assist him 
in his efforts to reduce the Isles to order. ^ It 
soon appeared, however, that whatever confidence 
the King and his Council may once have reposed 
in the public spirit and disinterestedness of the 
Argyle Family, they were now beginning to regard 
with suspicion their professions of zeal for the 
service of the country. As a matter of fact, 

^ Gregory, p. 13^. 


jealousy of the rapid rise and increasing power of 
the Chiefs of Inverary animated the breasts of 
many members of the Council, and the tendency 
towards self advancement, which sometimes became 
visible through the vail of vaunted patriotism, 
was gradually being unfolded to the vision of 
the young King. It was also felt on all hands 
that the lieutenancy of the Western Highlands 
and Islands, in itself a position of commanding 
influence, was in danger of becoming hereditary 
in the Family of Argyle, as public ofiices in these 
days had a distinct tendency to become ; and, still 
further, that if the Lordship of the Isles had 
proved dangerous to the well-being of the State 
in the past, this new office of Lieutenant, for the 
very reason that in form it was constitutional and 
responsible, might be fraught with greater peril 
to the commonwealth if its powers were wielded 
in the interests of one aggressive and ambitious 
House. Hence, when the policy of Sir John 
Campbell was, in the first instance, unfavourably 
viewed by those in power, there was witnessed the 
faint beginning of a rift in the lute, which, by 
and bye, might assume larger and more dangerous 
proportions, and those who cast the horoscope of 
the future might well and safely predict that the 
sun of Argyle, which had long been unclouded, 
was soon to suffer a temporary eclipse. 

The first step resolved on by the King indicated 
that a wiser and a more discriminating policy was 
now to be adopted towards the Western Isles than 
that which had hitherto prevailed. It was decided 
that, instead of endeavouring to pacify the Isles by 
aggressive military opeiations, a Herald or Puisuiv- 
ant should be entrusted with a mission to treat 


with the Western Chiefs, with special reference to 
Alexander of Dunn}'veg.^ This Herald, whose 
name was Robert Hart, was despatched on 3rd 
August, 1529, and the following is the Resolution 
of the Lords of Council in accordance with which 
he was sent upon his mission :— • 

" Anent the articulis and desiris proponit and gevin in be Sir 
Johnne of Calder, Knight, in name and behalfF of Colyne Erie of 
Ergile for suppleing of him in the resisting and persute of the 
Kingis rebellis inhabitantis the Ilis makand insurrectionis aganes 
oure Soverane Lord and his auctoritie quhilk may returne to 
displeasour of the hale cuntre nixt adjacent to the bordouris of 
the Ilis, without provisioun and gude ordoure be put thairin dew 
tyme, and for remeid thairof, it is divisit, concludit, and ordanit 
as efter followis, — 

" Item it is thocht expedient be the saidis Lordis that thar be 
ane offic.'ar of armis that is of wisdom and discretioun send to 
M'^Kynmont and his complices .... The said officiar of 
armis to have this discretioun, in the first to charge the said 
Allestar and his complices to desist and ceis fra all convocatioun 
or gaddering for the invasioun of our Soverane Lordis leiges, bot 
he reddely ansuer and obey to our Soverane Lord and his Lieu- 
tenant under the payne of tresone Item the said 

ofiBciar sail have commissioun and power of the Kingis Graice to 
commone with the said Allestar upoun gud wais and gif the said 
Allestar plesis to cum to the Kingis Graice to gif him assuirauce 
to pas and repas with ane certane nomer he beand content to gif 
plegis of Lawland men for keping of gud reule and till obey the 
King and pay him his malis anr) dewiteis of sic landis as his 
Graice sail gif to the said Allestar." 

In due time Robert Hart returned from his 
mission in the Isles ; but whether it was that the 
Chiefs were obdurate, or that Argyle was then, as 
afterwards, acting a double part, his report upon 
the attitude of Alexander of Dunnyveg towards 
the Crown was in the highest degree unsatisfactory. 
Whatever influences operated against the submission 

^ Acts of Lords of Council, XL., fol. 80. 


of the Islanders, the assertion of the authority of 
the King seemed so far productive of Httle good. 
The Council thereupon decided upon taking more 
stringent action ; but it is evident from surviving 
records that they were resolved to exercise due 
caution and deliberation. Argyle's oifer for the 
reduction of the South Isles to order was accepted, 
while similar proposals by the Earl of Murray for the 
pacification of the North Isles were likewise ordered 
to be carried into effect. The Lieutenant of the 
Isles was to direct special attention to Alexander 
of Dunnyveg, the most powerful and outstanding of 
the Island Chiefs, who apparently took the leading 
stand against the proceedings of the Government. 
The following is an extract from the Decree of the 
Lords of Council upon the failure of Robert Hart's 
mission : — 

" Anent the articulis send to Alester Canoch with Robert Hart 
pursevaut, and the respons of the saidis articulis schawin be the 
said Robert to tlae Lordis of Counsale, and thai, beand avisit 
thairwith at lenth, has concludit and thocht expedient that the 
Erie of Ergile, Lieuetenent of the His and boundis adjacent thairto 
sail pas forthwart into the His and to persew the said Alester and 
all utheris inobedient liegis to the Kingis Hienes taking of thair 
houses and strenthis and for punyssing of trespassoris, ordouring 
of the boundis of the His and putting of tha pairtis to pece and 
rest, and to subject thame to the Kingis obedience and lawis of 
the realme efter the forme and tenour of the commissioun direct 
to him thairupoun." 

The Decree of the Lords of Council contained full 
provision for accomplishing the ends shadowed forth 
in the foregoing extract. A roll of the tenants of 
the Isles was placed in Argyle's hands, with a 
citation that they should all come into the King's 
presence in order " to commune with His Majesty 
upon good rule in the Isles," All were inhibited 


from rendering any assistance to the rebels, or 
calling the King's lieges together for oftensive pur- 
poses, under pain of death. The fighting men of 
Perth and Forfar, and of the South of Scotland 
generally, were summoned to meet the King at Ayr, 
with provisions for forty days, to accompany him on 
his expedition to the Isles. The men of Carrick, 
Kyle, Cunningham, Eenfrew, Dumbartonshire, Bal- 
quhidder, Braidalbane, Kannoch, Apuadill, Athole, 
Menteith, Bute and Arran were charged to join the 
King's Lieutenant at such places as he should 
appoint, and to continue with him in the service for 
a month. The burghs of Ayr, Irvine, Glasgow, 
Renfrew, and Dumbarton were to send boats for 
victualling his army, all of which were to be paid for 
out of the Royal revenues. Protection was offered 
to the Islesmen, in case they should fear to trust 
themselves to the tender mercy of the Lowlanders, 
and especially of the Campbells, and this protection 
was to endure for thirty days, an additional period 
being allowed them for returning home.^ Not only 
so, but the King promised to take hostages from the 
Earl of Argyle for further security of the Island 
Chiefs, Duncan Campbell of Glenurchy, Archibald 
Campbell of Auchinbreck, Archibald Campbell of 
Skipnish, and Duncan Campbell of Llangerig being 
proposed as a list out of which any two might be 
selected for confinement in Edinburgh Castle until 
the Islanders were safely back to their sea-girt 

While the commission given to Argyle to pass 
into the Isles was intended to be put in action 
without delay, it does not appear that the materials 
for its execution were placed immediately in his 

1 Acts of Lords of Council, XLI., fol. 77. - Ibid., fol. 79, 


hands. The King and his Council seemed still to 
entertain some hopes of a peaceful solution of the 
Island problem. Orders were given to provide the 
Lieutenant of the Isles with a cannon, two falconets, 
and three barrels of gunpowder, with other con- 
veniences for his expedition ; but it was agreed 
to delay the calling out of the levies until it was 
seen how Argyle sped in his mission, and " becaus 
the harvest occurs now and uther greit imped i- 
mentis."^ It is also very certain that suspicions 
regarding Argyle's good faith were growing apace. 
In addition to all this, an indefinite postponement 
of the expedition was caused by the illness of the 
Earl of Argyle, and his death in 1530, and although 
his son Archibald succeeded him in all his offices 
and honours, the circumstances were unfavourable 
to immediate and decisive action. 

It was not until the early months of 1531 that 
Archibald, the new Earl of Argyle, along with the 
Earl of Murray, went upon their mission for the 
reduction of the Hebrides. The former nobleman, 
previous to his departure, gave abundant proof to 
the King and Council tliat he possessed the energy 
and ambition, with probably no small share of the 
unscrupulous character, of his predecessors. He 
gave an undertaking that he would carry out his 
commission with the most unsparing thoroughness. 
He would insist upon the inhabitants taking their 
lands in lease from the King, and upon the regular 
and punctual payment of the Crown rents into the 
royal treasury ; and, if opposition were offered, he 
undertook to destroy the recusants root and branch, 
and to bring the Isles eventually to a condition of 
peace and order. He, at the same time, requested 

1 Acts of Lords of Council, XLL, fol. 80. 


dccti>^^t- ^f ^^ A^of^] imcj -dtm^ corW^fe /cUdv^cvj &i/f^u^>, 

^c>fH4i ^tM^/'Vc^mtrU- rU\iMfHii^i>) m^H-.v fri\f(\t\ '-orfmu^ <ytcUvmi (('i^ifvHviu 
^>fi^H^YOpHHH o^Wfvi /cvm/wf^ '^C^KAJk CAWrt <-o^HyTvmAvn^ /f n-o*; c^ 
t<^l*vo« ^/wfirf* ^(Mrmtj ^Jioym^ At ^i^wn/^Hi(^r*</i4cn^TmX aTc(fcM-<W^ 

&>Ww ej(^ .'m^ivrw*) jlrpYimu^ -wincxo^YMi^, cmk^ms Ctf*u <\t^vuiQt^ ybvi- • 




that the commission of Lieutenandry which his 
father had possessed should be bestowed upon him, 
and that he should at all times be consulted by the 
Council of State as to any steps that might be 
deemed necessary to take in dealing with the 
Western Isles. ^ After having submitted these 
proposals — not unduly modest in their tone — the 
new Earl of Argyle, armed with the royal commis- 
sion, proceeded on his way. 

The evoDts that followed will be better under- 
stood when it is borne in mind that the missions 
both of the Earls of Argyle and Murray, the former 
in the South. and the latter in the North Isles, were 
conducted under the immediate and vigilant super- 
vision of the King. It was resolved that James 
should proceed in person against the rebels on the 
1st June, 1531, and from that moment there 
emerges a new and happier relationship between the 
Islesmen and the Crown. 

The Macdonald Chiefs, like the other vassals of 
the Isles, were during the early part of summer of 
this year repeatedly cited to the royal presence. 
On the 28th April, Parliament met in Edinburgh, 
and John Cathanachson, Donald Gruamach, John 
Moydartach, Alexander Maclan of Ardnamurchan — 
who seems to have grown weary of being an under- 
study of Argyle — Alister of Glengarry, Donald 
McAllister McRanaldbane of Largie, were all sum- 
moned, and not appearing, the citation was renewed 
till 26th May.^ We are particularly informed that 
the first-named in the foregoing list, Alexander of 
Dunnyveg, or John Cathanachson, as he was some- 
times called, received a respite under the privy seal 

1 Acts of the Lords of CouncU, XLII., fol. 186. 
^ Acts of Scottish Parliament, vol. II., p. 333. 


for himself and his household, men and servants, to 
the number of thirty persons, to come to the King's 
presence and return again to the Isles in safety. 
After the expiry of some weeks, the royal summons 
is responded to. On former occasions the pro- 
ceedings for the pacification of the Islesmen were 
under the immediate direction of those whose 
interest, and consequently whose wishes had lain, 
not in the tranquillity of the Isles, but in such 
chronic disaffection and dispeace as would prove the 
ruin of the Western Chiefs, and the consequent 
advancement of the House of Argyle. The Lord 
of Dunnyveg, recognising that the King was dis- 
posed to deal with the Hebridean chiefs on 
honourable and generous terms, resolved to make 
his submission, On the 7th June he came to 
Stirling, and on certain conditions received the 
royal pardon. The Act of Council recording the 
negotiations is in the following terms : — 

" It is the Kingis Graice mynd, with avise of the Lordis of his 
Counsale, that Alexander John Canochsoun, becaus he hes cumin 
to our said Soverane Lord and ofFerit his service in his maist 
liuimle maner like as in certane articulis gevin in be him to the 
lordis of Counsale thairupoun is contenit, and refFerit him hale in 
the Kingis will. Thairfor it plesis his Hienes to give to the said 
Alexander the profFetis of the landis contenit in his privie sele 
gevin to him of befoir be his Hienes be the avise of the Duke of 
Albany his tutour for the tyme, insofar as pertenis to the Kingis 
Grace in propirte Avithin the boundis of Kintyr or ony pairtis of 
the His during the Kingis will, and for his gude service to be done 
to his Hienes in eschewing of trouble and in quietation of the 
Kingis lieges and heirschip of the cuntrie, and for the helping of 
our soverane Lordis Chalmerlanys to be maid be his Grace for 
inbringing of our said Soverane Lordis malis, profFettis and 
dewiteis of the His and Kyntyr as he sal be requirit, and als to 
solist and cans at his power all the heidsmen and clannys of the 
His and Kintyr and to cum to the Kingis obedience and gude 
reule of the cuntre and for sur payment of the malis and profFetjs 


of his landis in the His and Kyutyr intromettit ^Yith be thame ; 
provydant that the said Alexander sail put to fredome all 
pi'isoneris that he lies pertenand to the Erie of Ergile and utheris 
and sail on no wis assist (or) fortifie John McClane of 
in assegeing of his hous nor hereing of his landis, but sail stop the 
same at his utter power, and sail fortify and kepe the Kirknien in 
thair fredome and privilegis, and caus thame to be ausuerrit of 
thair landis malis fermis and dewiteis thairof." 

In the foregoing conditions of pardon, acknow- 
ledgment is made of Alexander's powerful influence 
among the Islesmen, which he is called upon to 
exercise for the promotion of law and order, and in 
proof of this we find that on the same day, not only 
the cadets of the House of Isla but other vassals of 
the Isles follow the example of the Lord of Dunny- 
veg, and on making their submission to the King 
are immediately received into royal favour. Thus it 
came about that while the Earls of Argyle and 
Murray were cruising among the Western Isles, 
probably doing more to stir up disaffection than to 
create loyalty, the rebellion came to an end through 
the direct intervention of the King. By a com- 
bination of firmness and generosity, and by personal 
intercourse with the Islesmen, James brought about 
in a few days a condition which years of Argyle's 
lieutenandry had only served to render more remote. 
Had James' life been spared for even a few years 
longer than the date of his sad demise, and had he 
and his successors continued to apply to the problem 
of the Isles the same wise and patient policy, the 
future history of that region could have been 
delineated in brighter and more glowing hues. 

The tranquillity of the Isles and the submission 
and pardon of the Cliiefs were far from being a 
pleasing spectacle to the Earl of Argyle, who found 
a very unexpected state of matters awaiting him on 


his return from his Hebridean tour. The turn of 
affairs was so thoroughly satisfactory from a pubhc 
point of view that Othello's occupation was mean- 
while gone. Finding that the remission granted to 
the Islesmen by the King had placed them completely 
beyond his power, he did all he could to exasperate 
and annoy them and to kindle anew the expiring 
flame of disloyalty. The raids of 1529 into the 
territories of Argyle are once more raked up against 
the Macdonalds and Macleans, although these had 
been wiped away by the pardon of 7th June, 1531. 
The noble Earl, besides, seems to have forgotten his 
own invasion and wasting of the lands of Morvern 
and others in that same year, or, if he remembered 
these things, he acted as if on the principle that — 

" That in the captain's bnt a choleric word 
Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy." 

The immediate result of the Earl's proceedings in 
this matter was, that Alexander of Dunnyveg and 
himself both received a remission for the violent 
conduct of which they had been guilty in 1529, 
although, in the case of the latter, the neces- 
sity for such a remission does not in the circum- 
stances seem clear.\ The action of the Earl in 
these matters, however, proved eventually disastrous 
to himself. Alexander of Dunnyveg unhesitatingly 
appeared in response to the summons issued to him 
at the instigation of his grace of Argyle ; but when 
the day appointed arrived, the accuser found it con- 
venient to cultivate the privacy of Inverary Castle. 
Indeed, the tables were completely turned upon this 
magnate, who, with the cadets of his house, had 
evidently come to regard the Western Isles as their 

'■ Pitcaii'u's Criminal Trials ad iem^us. 


own special preserve. His accusations were met by 
a statement from the Lord of Dunnyveg, in which 
he not only vindicates triumphantly his own position 
since his restoration to Royal favour, but puts the 
King's Lieutenant completely in the wrong. The 
statement has such an important bearing upon the 
Clan Donald history of the period that we shall quote 
it here in full : — 

"Statement by Alexander of Dunnyveg anent certain 
Complaints preferred against him by the Earl of 
" In presence of the Lords of Council compeared Alexander 
John Cathanachson, and gave in the articles underwritten, and 
desired the same to be put in the books of Council ; of the which 
the tenor follows: — My Lords of Council, unto your Lordships 
huimlie menis and schawis I, your servitor Alexander John 
Cathanachson, that quhar lately Archd. Earl of x\rgyle of verray 
prover malice and envy gave in ane bill of complaint of me to 
your Lordships, alLging that 1 had done divers and sundry great 
faults to him and his friends, which is not of veritie ; for the 
which your Lurdships commanded me by ane maiser to remain in 
this town to answer to his complaints. And 1 have remained here 
continually tlu'-se 13 days last by past daily to answer to his said 
bill ; and because he perfectly knows that his narration is not nor 
may not be proved of veritie, he absents himself and bydis away 
and wall not come to follow the same. And since so is that that 
his narration is all wrong and feynyeit made upon me without any 
fault of very malice as said is as manifestly appears, because he 
will not come to pursue and verify the same, I answer to the points 
of his bill in this wise — In the first, I understand that no person 
has jurisdiction of the Lordship of the Isles but my master the 
King's grace alanerly. And insafer as his highness gave command 
and power to my sympilnes at my first incoming to his grace at 
Stirling, I have obeyed and done his highness's commands in all 
points and fulfilled the tenor of all his acts made in Stirling in 
every point as I was commanded. And gif it please his grace to 
command me to give his malis and duties of his lands and Lord- 
ship of the Isles to any person, the same shall be done thankfully 
after my power. And in sa fer as the said Earl alleged that 1 did 
wrong in intromittiug and uptaking of the malis and dewities of 


the Isles, he failyeit thairin, because I did nothing in that behalf 
but as I was commanded by the King's grace, my master. 

" Further, my Lords, I at your Lordships' command has 
remained in this town thir days last by past ready to answer to 
the said Earl in anything he had to lay to my charge to my great 
cost and expense. He as I am informed is past in the Isles with 
all the folks that he may get and wdth all the men that the Earl 
of Murray may cause pass with him for heirschip and destruction 
of the King's lands of the Isles and for slaughter of his poor lieges 
dwelling therein ; which as I trust is done without his grace's 
advice, license, authority or consent. And if so be the whole fault 
is made to his highness considering both the land and the men 
and the inhabitants thereof are his own ; and Avell it is to be 
presumed that his grace woiald give no command to destroy his 
own men and lands. And if the King's grace my sovereign Lord 
and Master will give power or command to me or any other 
gentleman of the Isles to come to his highness to pass in England 
in oisting or any other part in the mainland within this realm, I 
shall make good we shall bring more good fighting men to do his 
grace honour, pleasure, and service than the said Earl shall do. 

"And, if the said Earl will contempne the King's grace's 
authority his highness giving command to me and his poor lieges 
of the Isles, we shall cause compel the said Earl to dwell in any 
other part of Scotland nor Argyle, where the King's grace may get 
resoun of him. 

" And further, there is no person in the Isles that has offended 
to the said Earl or any others in the Lowlands but I shall cause 
him to come to the King's grace to underly his laws and to please 
his highness and the party be ressoun, suchlike as other Lowland 
men does, the brokynes and heirschip of the Isles being considered 
made by the said Earls father, the Knight of Calder, and Gillespy 
Bane his brother. 

"And mairattour, what the King's grace and your Lordship 
will command me to do for his highness honour and weal of his 
realm the same shall be done with all diligence of my power 
without my dissimulation. 

"And further, my Lords, I have fulfilled your lordships' 
command and bidden aye in this town and kept the day that your 
Lordships assigned to me to answer to the said Earl's complaint 
and that he came not to follow the same, that ye will advertise 
the King's grace thereof, and of my answer to his complaint, and 
give command to the Clerk of Council to subscribe the copy of my 


answer here present to be sent to the King's grace for information 
to his highness of the veritie. And your answer humbly I 

The statement just quoted was certainly not 
lacking in boldness and self-confidence, and its 
honesty and candour, and the unshrinking desire 
it manifests that the whole issue should be strictly 
investigated, contrasts most favourably with the 
evasive conduct of Argyle. The undertaking to 
compel his Grace of Inverary to retire into a more 
remote place of residence affords refreshing evidence 
of a desire on the part of the Lord of Dunnyveg 
to come to close quarters with the enemy of his 
House. The King seems to have been deeply struck 
by Alexander's indictment, and with characteristic 
sense of justice caused a minute enquiry to be made 
into its leading allegations, as well as into the whole 
question of tlie Argyle policy in the Isles, which the 
statement directly impugned. The result was a 
repetition of the story of Haman and Mordecai ; a 
case of the biter bit. Argyle sank in the pit he 
made for others, in the net which he hid was his 
own foot taken. Alexander of Dunnyveg was 
triumphantly vindicated. It was clearly brought 
out that the policy of the Argyle Family in the 
Isles had been animated by motives of private 
interest rather than by zeal for the peace and 
welfare of His Majesty's lieges in that part 
of his dominions, and that they were largely to 
blame for fomenting much of the turbulence and 
disaifection which had arisen within recent years. 
Still further it was brought out that Argyle's 
intromissions with the Crown rentals were not so 
advantageous to the royal revenues as with strictly 
honest accounting they should have been. The 



Earl was thrown into prison, and although his 
liberation soon followed, he was discredited and 
disgraced, while the public offices he filled were 
all taken from him, and some of them bestowed 
upon the Lord of Dunnyveg, who continued, 
during the reign of James Y,, to receive numerous 
marks of royal favour. From the Clan Donald 
point of view, the pleasing, but in those days the 
unwonted, spectacle is witnessed of the head of 
a great branch of the Family of the Isles high in 
confidence of the Crown, while the Chief of the 
Clan Campbell has to retire into obscurity and 


From 1532 down to 1538 the history of the 
Western Isles appears to have been quiet and 
uneventful ; at anyrate the surviving records of 
the age have little to say regarding the history of 
the Macdonald Family, a clear vindication of the 
methods of governing the Highlands adopted by 
James V. and his advisers. The problem of the 


Hebridean dans, especially, proved not hopelessly 
insoluble when approached in a spirit of generosity 
and firmness ; while, looked at through Argyle 
spectacles, and treated in the tortuous methods of 
Argyle policy, it was a standing menace to the 
peace of Scotland. In 1539, however, the Isle of 
Skye and the western border of Koss-shire became 
the scene of a fresh attempt to restore the lordship 
of the Isles and, to all appearance, also the Earldom 
of Ross. 

It was the universal belief in the Western Isles, 
and there seems little reason to doubt that the 
feeling was well founded, that the real heir to 
the Lordship of the Isles was the unfortunate 
Donald Dubh, who since 1506 pined in solitary 
confinement as a State prisoner in Edinburgh 
Castle. His claims to the Earldom of Hoss were 
by no means so clear. The Charter of 1476, in 
which Angus Og and his issue were legitimised, 
was granted after the forfeiture of the Earldom of 
Ross, and the succession of John's descendants was 
legalised only so far as the Lordship of the Isles 
was concerned. Hence, although Donald Dubh was, 
undoubtedly, the lineal heir to the Lordship of the 
Isles, it could not be contended with the same 
degree of confidence that he represented any 
hereditary right to the Earldom of Ross — all the 
more because this dignity had come into the Family 
of the Isles not as a Celtic but as a feudal honour. 
In any case, seeing that Donald Dubh was 
apparently a prisoner for life, there was only one 
family akin to the main stem of the House of 
Macdonald that could lay just claim to represent 
the combined dignities of both Earldom and Lord- 
ship. Now^ that the Family of Lochalsh had become 



extinct in the male line, the succession to the who.e 
honours of the House of Isla — as regards descent — 
appeared to devolve upon the Family of Sleat. 
Without prejudging any genealogical questions that 
must present themselves hereafter for solution, this 
certainly was the view taken by the vassals of the 
Isles in 1539, when the Chief of the Clan Uisdean 
once more unfurled the ancient banner and deter- 
mined to lay claim to and take possession of the 
time-honoured heritage of his sires. 

There is nothing, we think, more remarkable in 
the history of the years between 1493, when the 
Lordship of the Isles was forfeited, and the final 
effort made for its revival about the middle of the 
sixteenth century, than the almost unanimous 
support, despite of all opposing forces, that claimants 
to the ancient honour received at the hands of the 
chiefs and clans of the West. Not only were these 
insurrections countenanced by cadet families of the 
Isles, but other vassals than those of the Clan 
Donald rallied to the support of aspirants to the 
Lordship. It was the same tendency which in later 
centuries and on a larger scale was displayed by the 
Celtic inhabitants of Scotland, in the strenuous 
effort to restore the fallen Stuart dynasty to the 
British throne. The Highland Clans had not as yet 
begun to feel at ease under the yoke of a Govern- 
ment becoming more and more out of sympathy 
with Celtic culture and sentiment, and with the 
conservatism characteristic of the race, they 
cherished the hope that the good old times might 
be restored when they lived under the sway of 
native lords, who kept up the institutions and 
language of the Gael as these were nowhere else 
maintained. They did not follow the Lordship of 


the Isles as the swallow follows summer, with 
chivalrous devotion they clung to it after the 
winter of its misfortune had set in. The system 
once M^as theirs, and — 

" Once though lost 
Leaves a faint image of possession still." 

Thus do we account for the fact that Donald Gorme 
of Sleat, in his plot to lay hold of the Lordship of 
the Isles and Earldom of Ross, was supported by a 
majority of the Highland Chiefs, and particularly 
by the Macleods of Lewis, to whom his family had 
long been united in bonds of blood and friendshi[\ 

It is evident that at this particular stage the 
Macleods of Dunvegan had, despite the opposition of 
the Clan Uisdean, obtained a footing in the region 
of Troternish, for Donald Gorme's first move in the 
new campaign was to invade that district and lay it 
waste. He then turned his attention to the main- 
land of Hoss, and, with fifty galleys and their 
complement of fighting men, set sail for the shores 
of Kenlochewe. The Barony of Ellandonan was at 
that time in the possession of John Mackenzie, 9th 
Baron of Kintail, who was at the time away in the 
south, but who was well known to be adverse to the 
pretensions advanced by the Chief of Sleat, as well 
as to have aided Macleod of Dunvegan in his designs 
upon the Barony of Troternish. 

" M 'Donald has chosen the best of his power ; 

On the green plains of Slate were his warriors arrayed ; 
Every warrior came before midnight an hour, 

With the sword in his hand and the belt on his plaid. 

" At the first of the dawn, when the boats reached the shore, 
The shai-p ridge of Skooroora with dark mist was crown'd, 
And the rays that broke thro' it seemed spotted with gore 
As M'Donald's bold currach first struck on the ground. 


" Of all the assailants that sprung on the coast, 
One of stature and aspect superior was seen ; 
Whatever a lord or a chieftain could boast, 
Of valour undaunted, appeared in his mien. 

" 'Twas the Lord of the Isles whom the Chamberlam saw. 
While a trusty long bow on his bosom reclined, 
Of stiff yew it was made, which few sinews could draw : 
Its arrows flew straight, and as swift as the wind. 

" With a just aim he drew — the shaft pierced the bold chief ; 
Indignant he started, nor heeding the smart, 
While his clan pour'd around him, in clamorous grief. 
From the wound tore away the deep rivetted dart. 

" The red stream flow'd fast, and his cheek became white ; 
His knees, with a tremor unknown to him, shook ; 
And his once piercing eyes scarce directed his sight, 
As he turned towards Skye his last lingering look.''^ 

The foregoing lines seem to embody an authentic 
tradition regarding the invasion of Hoss and siege of 
Ellandonan by the Chief of Clan Uisdean. Here, as 
elsewhere, the traditional historian of the Mackenzies 
presents to us as sober fact a most luxuriant growth 
of legend, expecting us calmly to endorse a narra- 
tive of almost miraculous incidents. Only three 
men, we are gravely informed, were in occupation of 
Ellandonan Castle when it was besieged by the men 
of the Isles, and we are asked to credit the astound- 
ing statement that these three warriors, the governor, 
the watchman, and an individual abounding in 
patronymics — Duncan MacGillechriost MacFhionn- 
laidh MacKath — successfully opposed fifty boat loads 
of chosen warriors of the Clan Donald north. We 
can gather this grain of truth from amid the 
mountain of chaff, that on arriving at the strong- 
hold of Ellandonan, Donald Gorme, at the head of 

^ Scott's Border Minstrelsy. 


his men, came perilously within bowshot of the walls, 
when Duncan, the man of surnames, fired an arrow 
with unerring skill, and struck the Chief of Sleat in 
the leg. The wound would not have proved fatal 
were it not that Macdonald, failing to perceive that 
the arrow was barbed, plucked it impatiently out of 
the wound, thus causing a severance of the main 
artery, and hemorrhage, which his attendants knew 
not how to staunch. The dying Chief was removed 
to a sand bank on the shore, where a temporary hut 
was erected for his protection, and the place is still 
pointed out as Larach Tigh Mhacdhomhniiill, 
because it was there that the gallant Donald Gorme 
lay while the crimson tide of life gradually ebbed 
away. Then, when he had breathed his last, tfie 
same tradition tells us that his clansmen lovingly 
laid his body in its last resting-place, at Ardelve, on 
the opposite shore of Loch Loung. 

That the followers of the Chief whose career 
terminated thus fatally and prematurely did not 
retire in dismay before a garrison of three, is 
attested by the authentic records of the age. 
Under the leadership of Ai^chibald the Clerk, the 
death of Donald Gorme was amply avenged by 
his clansmen. The Castle of Ellandonan was 
burned, as were also Mackenzie's fleet of galleys, 
while the country around Kenlochew was harried 
and laid waste. 

The rebellion of Donald Gorme, which, but for 
the death of the leader, might have assumed 
formidable proportions, afforded ample proof to the 
Government, if such indeed were required, that 
there still existed a widespread desire among the 
Western clans to bring back the Lordship of the 
Isles. For this reason James V., who seems to 


have understood the Highland character better 
than any of his race, resolved to make an imposing 
progress through the Western Isles, with the view 
of impressing upon the chiefs the power and majesty 
of the Crown. For this purpose a fleet of twelve 
ships was equipped with artillery and various other 
accoutrements of war. Six of these were set apart 
for the special use of the King, his retinue, and 
soldiers ; while, as evidence of his intention to take 
a prolonged cruise, three were loaded with provi- 
sions, the remaining three having been appropriated 
for Cardinal Beaton, the Earl of Huntly, and the 
Earl of Arran respectively. After visiting Orkney 
and Caithness, the royal fleet doubled Cape Wrath, 
and visited a number of the Hebridean Isles. Among 
other regions, the King touched at the district of 
Troternish, in Skye, lately the scene of invasion 
and attack by the deceased head of the Clan 
Uisdean. The fleet dropped anchor at Portree— in 
former times known by the name of Loch Challuim 
Chille, or Saint Columba's Loch — and there is little 
reason to doubt the tradition that it received its 
more modern name of Port-an-Righ owing to its 
association with this royal visit to the Isle of Skye. 
Here James interviewed the famous John Moy- 
dartach and Archibald the Clerk, Captain of the 
Clan Uisdean (his grand-nephew Donald Gormeson 
being but a child), and also Alexander of Glengarry. 
The first of these, the redoubtable Captain of the 
Clanranald, was, with Macleod of Dunvegan and 
others, compelled to accompany the King on his 
southward voyage ; but the head of the Family of 
Sleat seems to have jn-eserved his freedom, and it is 
on record that, in the following year, 1541, he and 
the principal men of his clan obtained the royal 


pardon for the excesses and " heirschippes " of 
Donald Gorme's campaign in 1539. 

From Skye, the King directed his course to the 
South Highlands, calling at Kintail in the passing 
by, and having among others taken on board his 
ship James Macdonald of Dunnyveg, the son of 
Alexander John Cathanachson, memorable in the 
annals of his race for his triumph over Argyle, he 
sailed up the Firth of Clyde and landed at Dum- 
barton. According to Bishop Lesly, the King 
proceeded homewards by land, while the ships 
containing the captive Chiefs, whom he had kept 
as hostages for order and good government, were 
sent back by the West and North of Scotland, 
until they arrived at Edinburgh, in whose Castle 
they were immured. History is not definite as to 
the personel of these imprisoned potentates, but it 
is certain that John Moydartach and Macleod of 
Dunvegan were of the number, while it is highly 
probable that Macleod of Lewis, Alexander Mac- 
donald of Glengarry, and Maclean of Dowart were 
likewise their companions in affliction. It is not 
likely that James Macdonald of Dunnyveg, who had 
been educated at Court under the royal supervision, 
and who appears to have been a favourite with the 
King, suffered even a short imprisonment. Several 
of the Chiefs were liberated after a brief captivity 
on their giving hostages for their good behaviour, 
while some of the most dangerous to the peace 
of the Highlands, including John Moydartach, 
were kept in durance. As a consequence of this 
summer cruise among the Isles, it is said that peace 
and quietness prevailed among the lieges in districts 
hitherto perturbed, and that the Crown rents were 
promptly and regularly paid. 


Although the Lord of the Isles had been forfeited 
in 1493, the Lordship of the Isles was not then nor 
long after, by any formal Act of the Legislature, 
attached to the Crown. In 1540, however, certain 
measures were enacted by Parliament for increasing 
the royal revenues, and among other means it was 
resolved to annex the lands and Lordship of the 
Isles, North and South, with the two Kintyres, and 
the Castles pertaining thereto, and their pertinents.^ 
In consequence of these enactments, we find a royal 
garrison this same year occupying the Castle of 
Dunnyveg, with Alexander Stewart as the King's 
Captain in charge, as also the Castle of Dunaverty 
in Kintyre, both of which were the property of the 
Clann Iain Mhoir. This procedure, although it 
might be regarded as the natural sequel to the Act 
of Forfeiture, was a decisive step so far as the 
principality of the Isles was concerned. The for- 
feiture of 1493, followed by John's resignation in the 
following year, does not stand on record among the 
Parliamentary enactments of the time, and their 
terms are merely a matter of conjecture. Judging, 
however, by this Act of 1540, John's forfeiture did 
not extend beyond his own possessions, and the 
Lordship of the Isles still continued a separate 
superiority, and it does not seem very clear how far 
its revenues were levied, or if so, to what purpose 
they were applied. Now, however, the Crown 
becomes the superior of the lands and Lordship of 
the Isles, and it is a question whether this decided 
step on the part of James V. was calculated to 
promote the peace of that region, especially in 
view of the events that darkened the years that 
almost immediately followed the appropriation. 

^ Acts of Parliament of Scotland, vol. IL, 1540. 


In 1542 events occurred fraught with disastrous 
results to Scotland. James V. was at war with 
Henry VIII., and in the course of the campaign of 
that year incidents took place most discreditable 
to the loyalty and patriotism of the Scottish barons. 
We are not called upon in such a work as this, 
written for readers of all shades of Christian belief, 
to discuss the merits of the religious controversy 
which was then raging. We can, however, without 
offending ecclesiastical susceptibilities, estimate its 
political effects at the period at which we have 
arrived ; and it is safe to say that the influence of 
Henry VIII. with the leaders of the Reformation 
movement in Scotland was the main cause of the 
disaffection of the barons to the King, who still 
continued to support the Church of Rome. In 
addition to all this, it had been the policy of James 
V. in recent years, as it had been the traditional 
policy of the Stewart dynasty for generations, to 
lessen the power of the nobles and increase the 
perogatives of the Crown. The discontent arising 
from these causes came to a height in 1542. First 
of all, at Fala Muir, the barons flatly refused to lead 
their men to battle, and shortly afterwards, at 
Solway Moss, a still more indelible disgrace befell 
the Scottish arms. A body of 10,000 men, under 
Lord Maxwell and the Earls of Cassilis and Glen- 
cairn, entered England, and on being attacked by 
1400 English, the whole Scottish army took to 
flight, while nearly 1000 rank and file, and 200 
lords, esquires, and noblemen fell as prisoners into 
the enemy's hands. The leaders were corrupt and 
the men mutinous, and for the reasons already 
suggested they entered with no heart or energy 
into the conflict. Many instances are on record of 


men having been cited to the royal army against this 
raid of Solway, and receiving remissions for their 
failure to attend. We find on January 21, 1542, 
that a remission is granted to Donald MacAlister of 
Largie, John, his son and heir apparent, Ranald 
Boy, Archibald and John Makranaldvane, with 
twenty-four others, and Alexander McAlister of 
Loupe and two others, for treasonable abiding from 
the raid of Solway. How far, if at all, the other 
branches of the Clan Donald were involved in the 
same default, we find nothing in contemporary 
records to indicate.^ The King felt so keenly the 
national disgrace involved in the flight of his army 
at Solway, as well as the ominous political compli- 
cations by which he was on all hands beset, that he 
became a prey to the deepest despondency, and 
finally to despair. His proud spirit never rallied 
from the humiliation, and the fever of the mind so 
consumed his physical frame that in a few weeks he 
died from the saddest, the most tragic of all com- 
plaints — the pain which no anodyne can soothe and 
no physician heal — a broken heart. He was the 
victim of a powerful set of political forces which 
were beyond the control of any individual, however 
gifted, either to oppose or direct ; but he had given 
promise of great administrative power, and, humanly 
speaking, the wellbeing of the Highlands, and the 
interests of the Clan wdiose story we are telling, and 
towards which he acted with great wisdom and 
consideration, were prejudicially affected by his 
death, in the rich summer of his years. 

The first notable event in the history of the Clan 
Donald after the death of James V. was the escape 
of Donald Dubh from Edinburgh Castle in 1543. 

^ Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, vol, II., ad tempus. 


How his deliverance was effected, whether the men 
of Glencoe or other clansmen practised any further 
" Fenian exploits" for the liberation of the heir of 
the House of Isla, we have no materials for judging. 
He himself, in the course of a correspondence with 
Henry YIII. two years afterwards, acknowledged his 
indebtedness for his freedom more to the good grace 
of God than to the Scottish Government.^ It 
is obvious that, owing to the political conditions of 
the time, the Government's hold upon the Celtic 
region had grown lax and feeble ; the Isles parti- 
cularly were ripe for insurrection, and we may be 
sure that no pains would be spared, no device left 
untried, to effect the release of the captive who, 
more than any other, had an hereditary right to the 
homage of the ancient vassals of the Isles. 

It will assist us to understand the influences that 
moulded Clan Donald history at this period if we 
give a brief glance at the relations between parties 
in Scotland. The Reformation was the most 
important factor in the political conditions both of 
England and Scotland at the time of Donald Dubh's 
escape. Among the large masses as well as the 
middle classes of the population religious feelings 
were deeply moved, and religious motives largely 
operated ; but among the nobility the controversy 
assumed, in a great degree, a political complexion, 
and dominated, to a marked extent, the relations of 
political parties. As an inevitable consequence, two 
factions arose out of the turmoil of the time ; on the 
one hand, the Catholic party, headed by Cardinal 
Beaton, wedded to the old order and opposed to the 
policy of Henry VIII., the leader of the reformed 
movement in England, and, on the other, the Pro- 

^ Document in State Paper Office. 


testant party, under the leadership of the Earl of 
Arran, favouring the attitude of the English monarch, 
and encouraging his interference in the affairs of the 
Scottish State. 

Whatever estimate may be formed of the private 
character of Cardinal Beaton, a question that we are 
not called upon to discuss here, he was undoubtedly 
a man of great political talent, and his maintenance 
of a national and independent policy for Scotland is, 
from a patriotic standpoint, worthy of commendation. 
A determined foe of the Reformation, he was a 
devoted upholder of the Koman See, as well as of 
the alliance with France, all of which implied enmity 
to England and hostility to Henry YIII., the political 
head and mainspring of the Protestant cause in that 
country. Beaton had failed in his design upon the 
Regency, but down to the day of his death he 
exercised the largest measure of influence in the still 
powerful party with which he was so closely allied. 
The Earl of Arran, who, on account of his close 
relationship to the Throne, was appointed Regent, 
had embraced the principles of the Reformation, 
but neither his political nor religious convictions 
were sufficiently steadfast or profound, to cause him 
to take a resolute or consistent attitude, in his 
handling of the reins of his exalted office. 

The interference of Henry VIII. in the affairs of 
Scotland took the form of an attempt to negotiate a 
marriage between the Prince of Wales and the 
infant Queen of Scots. Facilities for promoting this 
match lay to his hand in the return of the Earl of 
Angus and the exiled Douglasses, as well as of 
numerous prisoners of rank taken at the disgraceful 
raid of Solway in 1542, all of whom were strictly 
enjoined by Henry to use their endeavours for the 


furtherance of his pet scheme. This scheme, had it 
only aimed at a union honourable to both countries, 
need not have been regarded with any suspicion, 
even on the ground of patriotism ; but when other 
designs were entertained subversive of the national 
liberties, such as the surrender of the fortresses and 
the acknowledgment of Henry's paramount authority, 
those Scottish nobles who promised their support 
were guilty of the most ignominious treachery. 
Cardinal Beaton was, of course, the most prominent 
in his opposition to the designs of the English King, 
and left no means untried to thwart them. Among 
other means, he got Matthew, Earl of Lennox, to 
return from abroad, and he being nearly related to 
the Royal Family, Beaton proposed him for the 
Begency in opposition to Arran, and thus wrought 
upon the Begent's fears. 

Whatever, in other circumstances, might have 
happened, the Scottish factions were soon thrown 
into each others' arms by the violent and precijDitate 
temper of the English King. The disclosure of his 
ulterior designs so alarmed statesmen of all parties, 
that something like a rupture of diplomatic rela- 
tions ensued, and the treaty for the marriage was 
abandoned. The coalition thus entered into by 
Cardinal Beaton and the Begent soon produced 
its natural results. The Cardinal, who had pre- 
vailed upon the Earl of Lennox to come to Scotland 
by holding out to him high prospects of political 
advancement, now grew cold in his attentions when 
he had no further ends for him to serve, and we are 
not surprised to find this nobleman taking umbrage 
at the treatment, espousing the cause of the party 
opposed to the Cardinal, and becoming a strenuous 
supporter of English influence in Scottish affaii's. 


Lennox had gone the length of securing the assist- 
ance of the French King for the prosecution of the 
war with England, now regarded as inevitable, and 
a French fleet actualfy arrived in the Firth of Clyde 
laden with military stores and a sum of 10,000 
crowns, to be distributed among the Cardinal's 
friends. The French Ambassador, not knowing 
that the Earl of Lennox had recently changed his 
political connection, allowed himself and the Earl 
of Glencairn, a staunch upholder of the English 
interest, to help themselves to the gold which he 
had in his custody, and it was only after the 
mistake could no longer be repaired that he 
discovered how adroitly the two noblemen had 
circumvented him. 

It was at this juncture, when tiie Scottish body 
politic was rent by conflicting interests, passions, 
and intrigues, and English influence was actively 
interposing in Scottish affairs, that Donald Dubh 
once more made his dehiit upon the stormy theatre 
of war. At the time of his escape from Inchconnel, 
forty years before, he had been proclaimed Lord of 
the Isles with all the traditional rites and cere- 
monies ; but now he lays claim to the Earldom of 
Ross as well, and, as soon as circumstances permit, 
addresses himself to the task of dislodging the Earls 
of Argyle and Huntly from the possessions which 
belonged to his ancestors, the former in the South 
Highlandn, the latter in the region of Lochaber. 
Both these noblemen have received praise from 
writers of history for their loyalty to the throne 
during the confusion and political corruption of 
these troublous times. It must, however, be 
remembered that the interests of both were intim- 
ately bound up with the maintenance of the 


established order, and that with Argyle especially, 
threatened as he was with eviction, bas" and 
baggage, from the Lordship of the Isles, antagonism 
to England — the ally of his foe — and consequent 
support of the Scottish cause, was the only possible 
line of action for the preservation of his estates. 

When Donald Dubh found himself at large, he 
realised the necessity of proceeding with caution 
and deliberation. The most powerful of the High- 
land chiefs were still prisoners in the Castle of 
Edinburgh, from which he had just escaped, and, 
consequently, the Western Clans were bereft of 
the hereditary leaders, without whose presence the 
movement could not possibly gather its full and 
legitimate force. In these circumstances a truce 
was arranged with the Earl of Argyle to last till 
May-day of that year ; but although on the expiry 
of the induciae both sides were engaged in hostilities, 
these did not, at the outset, assume very formidable 
proportions. At last an event occurred which 
immediately and powerfully affected the position 
and prospects of the new Lord of the Isles. The 
Regent Arran, a man of indolent and facile dis- 
position, did — on the suggestion of the Earl of 
Glencairn — liberate the Highland chiefs, who had 
been imprisoned since 1540 as hostages for the 
peace of their districts. The object of Glencairn 
clearly was to create such discord and civil strife 
in Scotland as would absorb the energies of loyal 
nobles and weaken the forces available for resisting 
the designs of the English King. The conduct of 
the Regent, assuming, as we may, that he was 
sincere in his maintenance of the national integrity, 
was little better than midsummer madness. He 
took bonds from the liberated chiefs " that they 


should not make any stir or breach in their country 
but at such time as he should appoint them," and, 
no doubt, they were delighted to obtain their 
freedom upon terms so easy ; but bonds imposed 
under such conditions were soon found to be value- 
less. It appears from Donald Dubh's correspondence 
with Henry YIII. that the Regent made overtures 
to him also to secure his submission and allegiance 
upon favourable terms ;^ but in this also he was 
unsuccessful, and very shortly after the Chieftains 
of the Isles had shaken the dust of Edinburgh from 
their feet, Celtic Scotland was once more in the 
throes of a revolution. 

The liberation of the Chiefs was soon followed by 
overt action on the part of the Lord of the Isles. He 
took the field with 1800 men, and, invading the terri- 
tories of Argyle, he plundered the country and put 
many of the vassals to the sword. In this, Donald 
had the unanimous support of the vassals of the Isles, 
with the single exception of James Macdonald of 
Dunnyveg, who withheld his personal co-operation. 
If Argyle in the South Highlands was sore beset by 
the Western Clans, the Earl of Huntly, as Lieutenant 
of the North and owner of extensive territories there, 
had similar difficulties to contend with. The follow- 
ing extract from the Council records of the Burgh of 
Aberdeen illustrates the feeling of insecurity that 
existed in the North, and the preparations for 
resistance that were being made against the antici- 
pated invasion from England, as well as expected 
incursions by Donald and his Islesmen : — 

"January 26th, 1544. — The sayd day the hayll tooun beying 
varnit to this day be thair hand bell passand throcht all the rewis 
and stretis of this said toun be the berar therof on the quhilk he 
maid fayth in iugment and in speciale be the officiaris of the said 

^ Documents in State Paper Office, 


burghe on the qvihilks inlikwyise thai maid fayth in iugmcnt and 
comperand for the maist part rcpresentand the haill body of the 
townn thar was presentit to thame the quenis grace lettres afor 
written ; ane one the sowme of four hundredth hb. xiiij lib. vjs. 
viid. of taxt, for furnesing of ane thousand horse to remain with 
the Jocumtenant on the bordouris, for resisting of our auld enemies 
of Ingland during the space of thre moneths, and als thair was 
presentit in iugment two writingis of the Erie of Huntlie locum- 
tenant generale of the North of Scotland be the seruandis upoun 
the said townn in fear of weir, with all necessaris as efFerit, with 
twenty days vitelling to pas with the said locumtenent for resisting 
of Donald His quhilk with his complices is cumand, as is allegit 
upoun the quenis landis of Koss for inuasion tluiirof and con- 
quesing of the same." 

In the very midst of Donald Diibh's rebellion the 
Northern Highlands were plunged into still greater 
disorder by a feud that sprung up between John 
Moydartach of Clanranald and the Frasers of Lovat, 
and which resulted in the sanguinary battle of 
Kinloch Lochy, known in the Highlands as Blar 
Leine, and fought on the 15th July, 1545. The 
details of this tragic field will fall to be narrated in 
a subsequent volume. We refer to it at this stage 
to show that John Moydartach, by engaging Huntly 
and Lord Lovat, the partisans of the Crown, was 
fighting, not only for his own hand, but in the 
interests of the Lord of the Isles as well. In the 
meantime, the relations between Henry VIII. and 
the Scottish Government grew, if possible, more 
bitter. The English King sent an expedition, under 
the command of the Earl of Lennox, which did much 
havoc in the West Highlands. Arran was attacked 
and plundered, and the Castle of Brodick reduced to 
ashes, while the Island of Bute, with its Castle of 
Eothesay, was reduced. After an ineffectual attempt 
to take Dunbarton Castle, Lennox returned to Eng- 
land. On the 13th of August, 1545, the Scottish 



Lords addressed a letter from Melrose to Henry 
VIII., in which they advised an invasion of Scotland 
in force, and that an expedition for that purpose 
should be organised, under command of the Earl of 
Hertford. Preparations v^ere already in progress 
for an invasion by land, as well as a naval descent 
upon the West Coast, and, in the course of these, 
negotiations were opened with Donald Dubh, who 
was now at the head of the whole military strength 
of the Isles. Alliances with England were nothing 
new in the history of the House of Isla, and Donald, 
true to his family traditions, and smarting under his 
imprisonment of half a century, disclaimed allegiance 
to Scotland, and, with the Earl of Lennox as inter- 
mediary, entered into a treaty with the English 
King. In the month of June, it is evident that the 
communications passing between the English interest 
and the Lord of the Isles had come under the notice 
of the Scottish Government, and a Proclamation was 
issued by the Kegent Arran and his Council against 
" Donald alleging himself of the Isles and other 
Highlandmen his partakers." Donald and his accom- 
plices were charged with invasions upon the Queen's 
lieges, both in the Isles and in the Mainland, 
assisted by the King of England, with whom 
thej were leagued, shewing that they purposed 
bringing these under obedience to that Sovereign. 
The Proclamation called upon them to desist from 
such treasonable and rebellious conduct, failing 
which they were threatened with serious pains 
and penalties. It is thus apparent that before 
we have any record of a formal league between 
Donald Dubh and Henry VIII., the Scottish 
Government regarded the alliance as practically 
complete, and Henry's expedition to the West under 


Lennox as in aid of the efforts of the Lord of the 
Isles for the recovery of his patrimony. This Pro- 
clamation failed, of course, to produce the desired 
result, and processes of treason were commenced and 
carried through as expeditiously as was compatible 
with Parliamentary procedure. So far as we can 
ascertain, the first extant record of the league with 
England bears the date of 23rd July, 1545, and is 
contained in the " Commission from the Lord of the 
Isles of Scotland to treat with the King of England," 
the tenour whereof follows : — 

" Be it kend till all men be ye pnt wryt We Donald Lord of 
ye His and Eiil of Roiss with adviss and consent of our barronis 
and counsaill of ye His that is to say Hector Machine Lord of 
Doward Jhonn Macallister Capitane of Clanranald Lord MacLeod 
of Lewiss Alex^ MacLeod of Dunbeggane Murdoch Maclane of 
Lochbouy Angus Maconill brudir german to James Maconill Allan 
Maclane of Torloske brudir german to ye Lord Maclane Archibald 
Maconill Capitane of Clan Hustein Alex.'^ Mackane of Ardna- 
murchan Jhonn Maclain of Coll gilliganan MacNeill of barray 
Mackiynnan of Straquhordill Johnn Macquore of Ulwy Jhonn 
Maclane of Ardgor Alex"^ rannoldson of Glengarrie Angus ronaldson 
of Cnoeddart Donald Maclane of Kengarloch, to have maid 
constitud and ordanit and be yir our presentis makis constitutis 
and ordanis giffand our full power express bidding and command 
to honorable person is and our kynnsmen yat is to say Rore 
Makallester elect to ye bishoppe of the Isles in Scotland and deyn 
of Moruairin and Mr Patrik Maclain brudir german to yc said 
Lord m*^ lain bailze of ycomkill and iustice clerk of ye South His 
cointlie and sevralie our aid and indorsetit Comissionaris, We 
beand bodely swarne to stand ferme and stable at all and haill ye 
saidis Comissionaris promittis or does in our name and bchalve 
We neer to own in ye contrar of ye samyn and We admit ye sadis 
Comissionaris to bind and to lowss to follow and defend to tyn 
and wyn to end and compleit as such awin proper persins war 
presentis in all materis as will be commandit yamc be Mathew erll 
of Lennox and secund persoun of ye realm of Scotland endowdit 
and in speciall testifying our Landis instantlic be maid to ane 
most nobill and potent prince Harye ye acht be ye grace of god 


King of ingland france and Ireland yir forsadis Comissionaris 
haifFand our full power to acit and to end in all udir our 
afFairis concerning ye Kingis maieste of ingland france and 
Ireland and ye said erll of Lennox as ye said erll will comand. 
Comanding yir our sadis Comissionaris and for better secuorite of 
yis present we ye said Donald has afiixit our proper seill wit our 
hand at ye pen becaus we can not writ and has causit ye baronis 
aboun writtin becaus thai co<^ not writ to cause ane no tar to 
subscribe for yame w* yair hand at ye pen w* yair bodely auttie 
neir to cum in ye contrar of ye samyn And als we have gifiin 
Commissioun to our saidis Comissiounaris to mak ye selis of yir 
our baronis aboun wtin gif neid be or requirit ye qlk ye saidis 
baronis has swarne afore ane notar publick to stand and abyd at 
ye saidis selis ^ selit be saidis Comissionaris and nere to cum in ye 
contrar of ye sam and has selit our proper seill and signet w* ye 
saidis Comissionaris for ye completing and ending of all besynes 
comandit or requirit be ye said erll of Lennox In witness heirof 
we have yir pret Comissioun afoir patrik Colquhoun of pemwul 
Walter macfarlan of Ardlys Sr archibald m'^gillivray Vicar of 
Killane Mr Jhonn Carswell notaris publick requirit to ye samyn 
w*- witness."^ 

The foregoing document, drawn up in the island 
of Eigg — or EUancarne as it is designated in the 
conclusion of the deed — contains the names of all 
the Island vassals, with the exception already 
referred to, and even the Lord of Dunnyveg was 
efficiently represented by his brother Angus, who, 
no doubt, was accompanied by a contingent of 
fighting men from his native Isla. The delibera- 
tions which find expression in this remarkable 
paper seem to have been conducted with a unity and 
cohesiveness of purpose not always characteristic of 
the policy of the Western Chiefs. Even Maclan of 
Arclnamurchan — who, in former days, was wont to 
play into the hands of the House of Argyle, acting 
the part of jackal to the lion of Inverary — now falls 

^ "Seal" ill this connectiou evideutly means " siguature. " 
^ Extracted from Correspondence in State Paper Office. 


in line with the rest of the Clan Donald chiefs. 
The leading motive of the movement was un- 
doubtedly the attachment of the Islesmen to the 
historic family which had so long borne sway in 
the Western Highlands, and though the attitude 
of the Chiefs would not have been weakened by 
the vision of English gold held up to them by the 
emissaries of Henry, the history of the Highland 
people is very far from ju-stifying the suspicion 
that mercenary motives played more than a very 
subordinate part in the support now accorded to 
the last representative of the House of Isla. 

From the Isle of Eigg, a favourite rendezvous 
with the men of the Isles, the scene changes to 
the North of Ireland. There, about a week later, 
we find the Island Lord with all his barons, an 
army of 4000 men, and 180 galleys. The meeting 
place of the Council of the Isles was the chapter 
house of the Monastery of Greyfriars at Knock- 
fergus, and there were also present Patrick Colquhoun 
and Walter Macfarlane, Commissioners of the Earl 
of Lennox^ ; also Walter Cluddy Constable, Henry 
Wyld Mayor, Patrick Macgelloquhowill and Nicolas 
Wild Bailies, of the same town. It is also inter- 
esting to note the presence of John Carswell, who 
afterwards rose to eminence as the first Protestant 
Bishop of the Isles, and whose edition of the prayer- 
book in the vernacular is one of the treasures of 
Gaelic literature. He signs and indorses, in the 
capacity of Notary Public, several of the more 
important documents written in the course of this 
unique correspondence with the English Govern- 

' Agreement of Lord of the Isles and other Chieftauis and Commissioners 
of Lennox, in State Paper Office, 


ment. The Islesmen pledge anew their allegiance 
to the English monarch, and promise to do all in 
their power to promote the scheme which Henry 
still hoped to carry into effect, the marriage of the 
Prince of Wales and the infant Princess of Scotland. 
This is but a preliminary to other instruments of 
agreement and concord which are formulated upon 
the same days. In a letter of 6th August, from 
Donald to the Privy Council of Henry VHI., we 
have for the first time an intimation of the monetary 
assistance offered to him for his services, as well as 
to aid him in the recovery of his rights. This aid 
consisted of a gift of 1000 crowns, sent by the Privy 
Council by the hands of Patrick Colquhoun, who, in 
the interval since the meeting of Council at Eigg, 
has found time to be the bearer of English treasure 
to the Island Lord. This is accompanied by the 
promise of an annual pension of 2000 crowns for life, 
conditioned, of course, by the continuance of his allegi- 
ance — ad vitam aut culparii. The Commissioners 
from the Lord of the Isles have not yet, however, 
gone on their important errand to lay their master's 
commands before the King and Council of England. 
A series of Articles,^ to be placed in the hands of 
the Island Deputies in support of their Commission, 
w^as drawn up on the 5th August ; but it would 
appear that, on the arrival of the Earl of Lennox 
on the scene of Council, other Articles, similar in 
number and substance, but containing much addi- 
tional matter, were substituted in their room, and 
as these shed an interesting light upon the 
transactions of the period, we propose to quote 
them here as fully and accurately as we can. 

^ Documents in State Paper Office, 




" Item first, that quhare we desyrit in our artikills to your 
Lordshipis bewrtt afore my lord therlle of Lenox coming (second 
ppersoun of the realme of Scotland), his Lordship to be send in 
Scotland w* ane arme for settin fast of the Kingis enemys of 
Scotland. In the nixt artikill quhar our Lord and Maister t' erll 
of Ross and lord of the His promittis that his Lordship shall 
distroye the tane half of Scotland or than mak theyme to cum to 
the Kingis maiesties obedience and to my Lord t' Erlle of Lenox 
his hienes subject. The third artikill quhar the said erll of ross 
our Maister him becom the Kingis grace subject bodelye 

sworne wyt the lord Maclane and the rest of the barronis of the 
His . and desyris the Kingis grace w* awise of your Lordships his 
good counsall to mak no aggreance with Scotland, and in speciall 
w* the erllis huntlie and argyll, wy*out the said erll of ross, the 
lord Maclane Captain of Clanranald wy* the rest of the barronis of 
the His, the quhilkis ar becom the Kingis grace subjectis be 
includit therin the fourt artikill quhar it specifyith of the Kingis 
maiesteis most noble gudness and your Lordships his most honor- 
able counsall hath written w* patrick colquhoun seruaud to our 
good lord t' erlle of Lenox to gif the said erll of ross ane yeirlie 
pension of two thousand crownis for service doyne and to be doyne 
of the quhilk sum his Lordship hath rasawit be the said patrick 
Colquhoun xiiii. hundreth crownis w* uderis presentis send be 
t' erlle of Lennox as his discharge at more lenth beareth, of the 
qlk yeirlie pension the said erlle of ross desyris sich suirness of 
his hienes as sal be requirit rasonable be us his Commissionaris, 
and his most noble hienes and your good Lordships thinkis 
expedient, w* his grace mainteinyng and defending the said ei-11 of 
ross injoeing and bruiking all heretages and possessionis that his 
forbearis erlles of ross and Lordis of the His bruikit of befoir. 
The fift artikill and last of all beareth that quhar the said erll of 
ross promittis to serve the Kingis maiestie and my lord t' erlle of 
Lennox w* the number of viii. thousand men, four thousand men 
of the same now instanllie is come in the Kingis maiesteis boundis 
of Ireland, the uther four thousand is keepand than' awin boundis 
agains the erlles huntlie and argyill, the quhilk stayis the saidis 
erllis to remane in thair awin boundis, and may not supplie nor 
defend the bordoris of Scotland in contrarie the Kingis maiesteis 
arme the said cril of ross desyris to have wagis to three thousand 
of the said eytht thousand the uther five thousand to serve the 


Kingis maiestie in favour of my lord t' erlle of Lennox not takand 
wagis and this my lordis the said erll of Ross the lord maclane 
and the rest of the barronies of the His to becom the Kingis grace 
is subjectis as said is, in the fauo^' causing and your afFectioun had 
in the said erlle of Lennox and in especialle be suir knowledge of 
the gudness that the Kingis most noble maiestie hath doyn and 
dalie dois to the said erll of Lennox. 

" Item after the comying of the said erll of Lennox we hearand 
his Lordship's mynd concernynge the Kingis graces affaires with 
presents in o'' Lord and maistiris name the said erlle of ross and 
Lord of the His, of my lord of Lennox w*" the Kingis grace is arme 
pass uppon Dunbertan or uppon any uther the wcast ptis of 
Scotland we sail mak the number of vi. thousand men wyth their 
galays and vesshells conforme to the said number to forme the 
Kingis graces and my lord errle of Lennox, and yf his Lordship 
pass ujjpon the erllis huntlie or Argyill we shall mak the holle 
number of viii. thousand, for yf we laif o^' awiu boundis. It most 
needis that we laif sum men keepand theym, and those at remains 
at hoyme dois the Kingis grace als good service in defending 
agains tlie erllis huntlie and Argyill as they do that comynd furt. 

" Item secondlie my lordis we exhort your Lordships to 
remembr and consider quhat honorable and faithful service we 
pinit to do the Kingis maiesties in o^" Liffis and honor and quhath 
our maister t' erll of ross hath refusit all oiferis ofierit unto his 
Lordship be the guvernor and Lordis of Scotland and in cause of 
our good lord t' erlle of Lennox is become the Kingis graces 
sultject. And now lastlie hath made slachtir burnying of and 
hcrschipps upon the Scottis men takand the pursute of all Scot- 
land upon him. This my Lordis because it is the Kingis graces 
and your Lordships let not the said erll of ross be dethroynit be 
the holle realme of Scotland, for if his boundis be destroyit, he 
may not mak the Kingis maiestie so good service as he may quhil 
his cuntrie is sawf, and considder quhat the Kingis maiestie 
lyekith to spend in his grace and my lord of Lennox afifairis and 
that our Maistir and Lord is defended agains the Scottis men, w* 
the grace of god It shall redound in much more value to his 
maiesties is proffitt honor and obedience, the qlkand his grace 
walden have of Scotland If it shal be socht and win be the weast 
jDarts and His in suiretie. 

" Item thirdly becaus we have hard and considerit quhow that 
the Kingis maiestie and my lord t' erlle of Lennox hath beyne 
defraudit be the Lordis of Scotland, the quhilk schuld cans the 


Kinge graces and your good Lords of the counsall to be the more 
warr with all the nation of Scottis, this for their frauds, and in 
spcciall wyt we that is callit the wyld His of Scotland, for tlic 
caiis my Lordis we besech your Lordships to have no sich conscit 
in us, as we belieff suirlie your Lordships wisdom will not quharfor 
your Lardships sail consider we have beyne auld enemies to the 
realme of Scotland, and quhen they had peasthe with the Kiugis 
hienes, they hanged hedit prisoned and destroied many of our Kyn 
friendis and forbears as testefyit be our Maistir terlle of ross now 
the Kingis grace subject the quliilk hes lyin in preson afoir he was 
borne of his modir, and nocht releissit wit thair will bot now 
laitle by the grace of God. In likewise the lord Maclane is fadir 
was cruillie murdessit onder ti-aist in his bed in the town of 
edinbruighe be Sr John Cambell of Calder brudir to terlle of 
Argyill. The Captain of Clanranald the last yeir ago in his 
defence slew the Lord Lowett his sone and air, his thre brothir 
with xiii. score of men and many uther cruel slachter, burnying 
and herschcp that hath betuix us and the sadis Scottis the qlk 
was lang to wrythe, for the qlk causis we are not able to agre w* 
the sadis Scottismen, and now most of all can thai knaw that we 
ar becom the Kingis grace subjectis the hatrand wilbe the grittar 
betwixt us and them yan it was afoir, and 

" Item fourtlie and last of all your Lordship to considder that 
sen we have no uther refuge bot onlic his most noble hienes and 
o»' good lord t' erlle of Lennox, tlie q^^ lord and we hath no help 
bot of his gracious hienes. And for the tyme is most convenient 
now betwix and Christmas to perseue Scotland, and that we are 
not best holdin w* wittalis, and most able to do theym grittast 
skayth in cornis cattell goodis and biggynis to assay the said erll 
of Lennox and o^" maistir t' erll of ross be the Kingis grace is 
supple And or his hienes spend anything that may do his Maistir 
hurt it shalbe persewit gif our Maistir and Lord performe as we 
promist in his name, and It is now convenient to go to warr nor if 
continow longer becaus off my Lord terlle of Lennox he is not sett 
furtly and our Lord and maistir suppleit now instantlie, our 
enemy wilbe the more bawld uppoun us, and mak their vavxnt that 
our Maister t' erlle of ross is service Is not acceptil be ye, Kinge 
hienes, and in lyke manner the frenchmen will say that they hold 
the Kingis grace in sich besynes that his maiestie may not supple 
o^" Maistir nor persew his gracis rychtis of Scotland for feir of 
theym, and this we pray your Lordship to inform the Kingis 
hienes of the sam, that the precious and convenient tyme be no 


lost ye qi'^ onis lost is unretrevable and on o^' Lyffis your 
Lordshippis had neir as good tyme as now. 

" Finale my Lordis to concluid we pray your good Lordshepps 
to have us excusit of our lang wryttand and barbarous discourse 
to consider o'' mynd and not the wryttand that our mind is not to 
persuaed your Lordshipps w*^ wordis, or to be desyras of the 
Kingis grace is money bot It shalbe onderstand be our good Lord 
t' erll of Lennox and theym that gois in his company as pleses the 
Kingis maiestie and your good Lord that quhar we desyre one 
crowin of his hienes we shall spend thre in his grace is service w* 
the grace of God prayand Christ Jesu to have ye Kingis maiestie 
in keeping and yo'' Lordshipps, w'^ aught as your Lordshipps 
thinkis expedient." 

The foregoing lengthy statement exhibits a con- 
siderable amount of astuteness both in its conception 
and its terms, and the programme laid down, had it 
been pushed with vigour and determination, might 
have proved disastrous to the freedom of Scotland. 
The policy of keeping Argyle and Huntly engaged 
in the defence of their own territory, by maintaining 
an army in the Isles, and thus preventing their 
taking part in the general defence of the kingdom ; 
the appeal to Henry's pride not to delay the invasion 
of Scotland lest the French should say that the war 
against their country absorbed the whole of his 
resources ; all this displayed some diplomatic ability, 
while the closing paragraphs give vent to feelings of 
bitterness engendered by the memory of past oppres- 

The letter of Donald Dubh to Henry VI H. 
concludes the more important portion of this corres- 
pondence on the part of the Lord of the Isles. It 
has never hitherto been published, and a document 
so remarkable both as to form and substance well 
deserves reproduction in the annals of the Clan. 
The tenour of this epistle is as follows : — 


" To your most illustrious highness, most invincible King, 
from our inmost heart we offer most humble submission. We 
accept truly both the letter and the magnificent gift of your 
highness, rejoicing not so much in the gift itself as that j'our 
highness has deigned to look upon our low estate, and receive us 
into favour ; and this by suggestion of our singular friend, the 
Earl of Lennox, the true and vmdoubted Governor of Scotland, 
with whom we are ready even to the last day of our life, either in 
war or in peace to live, yea, if it should be necessary to meet 
death. We have come therefore most potent prince to your 
Majesty's country of Ireland attended by 4000 soldiers in that 
place (and also wherever your highness shall wish) according to 
the wish and desire of the foresaid Earl to offer most diligent 
service ; on which account our Commissioners and dear friends the 
bearers of these presents we have good to send to your most 
magnificent excellency of wliom one is elected to the dignity of 
the bishopric of the Isles, the other, a brother of laird MacLane of 
Dowart, bailie of Icolumkill and chief Justiciar of the Isles ; to 
whom equally as to ourselves we wish faith to be given. And 
how great is the joy I feel, reflecting in my mind how your most 
Christian Majesty, imitating the example of Christ (who chose not 
the great and the rich but the poor and fishers to be disciples and 
Apostles), hath not disdained to stoop yourself to our humble con- 
dition although from our mother's womb we were bound in the yoke 
and servitude of our enemies, and to this very time overwhelmed 
with the filth of the prison and with intolerable fetters most cruelly 
bound. But lest by excessive and rude talk I cause any weari- 
ness to your magnificence, one thing is most certain that we by 
our Earl Lennox (who ought to govern Scotland) will as long as 
we live be most obedient and submissive to your most Christian 
Majesty, whom may Jesus Christ vouchsafe to preserve in pro- 
sperity of soul and body. At Knockfergus the fifth day of August 

" To your most invincible highness the most obedient and 
humble Donald Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles of Scotland, 

From the correspondence thus quoted at some 
length, we learn that certain definite proposals were 
made to Henry VIII. by Donald Dubh and his 
Council, proposals which had been clearly elicited by 


previous overtures on the part of the English King. 
The main drift of the message borne by the Com- 
missioners was to the effect that the territories 
claimed by Donald Dubh were to be held of 
Henry VIII. as liege Lord, and that Donald was to 
assist in the invasion and conquest of Scotland with 
8000 men, 3000 of whom were to be in the King's 
pay, while the rest were to be maintained at 
Donald's own chai'ges. For these services the Lord 
of the Isles was to receive an annual pension of 
2000 crowns, in addition to a gift of 1000 crowns 
already given him as a token of goodwill and as 
an earnest of future favoiu^s. The first payment 
included, along with 1000 crowds, 300 crowns 
additional, which must have been either an instal- 
ment of the annual pension voted by the English 
Privy Council, or a sum to account for the main- 
tenance of the host. Armed with the fullest 
instructions, the two plenipotentiaries of the Lord 
of the Isles set sail for England. 

The scene of diplomacy next shifts to the King's 
Manor of Oatlands, where Henry VI 11. receives the 
Deputies of Donald Dubh on 4th September of that 
year. The primary result of the negotiations con- 
ducted there was an aiiTeement arrived at between 
the English King and the Commissioners on the 
basis of the Island Lord's proposals. The agreement 
is in the following terms : — 

" To all men to quhome theiss presentis sail cum be It known 
that quhair oiu' Lord Donald of the His and erll of ross has 
direckit us Lord Macallister elect of the Ills and deyu of Morverin 
and Maister patrick Maclane brudir german to Lord Maclane 
bailzie of ycomkil and justice clerk of the South Ilis as liis com- 
missionaris to the most noble hieast and victorius prence Henry be 
the grace of god King of Ingiand France and Ireland supreme head 


of the fayth and of the Churchis of ingland and Ireland supreme 
hed not onlie to present a wrytting of en othe maid to his 
Maiestie be the said erll of ross as in the letters thereof maid 
selit and delyeverit is contenit hot also has gifFen us authorite to 
promiss and bynd the said erll and others adhering to him to 
observe and keip sich covenants and conditions as sal be be us 
aggreit their unto We theirfore the said Commissionaris consider- 
ing the grit gudness speciall favour and benignite of the Kingis 
said maiestie speciallie that it plesis the same to grant unto the 
said erll a yeirlye pension of two thousand crownis as appearis by 
his hienes lettres patentis made of the same and that furthermore 
his maiestie is content so to accepit the said erll and uther to him 
adhering unto his protection as if ony aggrement be maid wythin 
the realme of Scotland to comprehend the same Comissionaris doo 
promiss for in the behalf of the said erll that they sail trewlie and 
faythfullie serve his maiestie to their powaris and to the anoyances 
of the governor and his partakers in the realme of Scotland we 
shall not entre any practiss of agrement wyth t' erllis of huntlie or 
Argyill or any of the realme of Scotland or other in their name or 
otherwise to the Kingis maiesti's prejudice, but always persist and 
continow the Kinge maiestis trew ffrinds and subject wythout 
doing any act to the contrarye And uthers the Kingis maiestie 
sendis at this present th' erll of Lennox and his company th' erlle 
of Osmond and Osserey of Ireland with a number of men to invade 
the realm of Scotland and besides general annoyance to be doon in 
burnying herwing and spoiling as they have opportunitie contre 
so farre as Stirling iff they may see the enterprise faisable The 
said Comissionaris promiss that the said erll an others to him 
adhering shall furnishe presentlie in the said enterprise to goo 
under the rule and leading of the said erll of Lennox VIII 
thousand men so long as the said erll of Lennox shall remayn in 
the countrey of the erlle of Argyill and for the tyme the said erll 
of Lennox shall be in any other parte of Scotland the said erll of 
ross and others shall furnishe only VI thovisand and tother II 
thousand to be employed otherwise at home in the noyaunce of 
the said erll of Argilis country in the meane season In which 
case the kingis maiestie is content uppon such service doon to 
allowe unto the said erll and others besides the number furnished 
at the kingis maiesti's charge out of Ireland wage for throe 
thousand of their said men for the space of two monthis after such 
rate as highnes is accustomed to pay to his own. 



" In witnes hereof we have subscribed these presentis with our 
own hande and sette the seal of the said erll our Master delyward 
by him unto us for that purpose at the Kingis manor of Otland ye 
fourt daye of September ye yeyr of God anno fourtie fyef yeyrs." 

«^ ,V-<p.*H^ J^ ^ ^^ 
cf-^ >h;-u*v- ^W^ 


The Commissioners from the Lord of the Isles, in 
addition to the foregoing agreement, bore with them 
a letter direct from Henry in answer to that which 
Donald had sent to the English King a month pre- 
viously. This letter is in the following terms : — 

" Right trusty and right well beloved Cousyn we grete you 
well and late you wite that we have recyved your letters and Avid 
of your submission to our service and allegeaunce made by our 
welbeloved the Bishop elect of thyles and the lord Maclane's 
brother which we have taken in verrye good and thankfull parte 
And we have harde the credence which they had to declaire unto 
us on your behaulf and having communed thereupon with our 
right trusty and right welbeloved Cousin therlle of Lennox and 
the rest of our counsall we have made such an honorable answar 
to the same as you shall have good cause in reason to be contented 
likeas presently our said cousin of Lennox at his coming hither 
and the said bishop and the lord Maclane's brother will signify 
unto you shall proyve by such writinge as they bringe with them 
Praying you good Cousin to proceed like a noble man to the 
revenge of such dishonoures as your enemyes and ours to have 
doon both to you and to us and to retrieve the same as moch as 
you can and you shall well prove that you have given yourself to 


the servyce of such a Prynce as will consider your welldoing 
herein and the good service which you shall minister unto us in 
this behalf has the same shall redound to your own benefit and 
comeditie Given under our signet at o'" manor of Oteland the 
nyth daye of September the xxxvii*^ yere of our Reign." 

A letter in precisely similar terms was addressed 
by Henry to Hector Maclean of Dowart, whose 
name appears at the beginning of the list of Island 
barons, and who seems to have taken a leading part 
in all the negotiations coiniected with Donald Dubh's 
rebellion and his treaty with the English Govern- 
ment. He seems to have naturally stepped into his 
hereditary position as Seneschall or Steward of the 
Isles, and his well-known ability in war and council 
qualified him to be Donald's chief adviser during his 
brief and troubled rule. The Commissioners of the 
Lord of the Isles, Roderick MacAlister, Dean of 
Morvern, and Patrick Maclean, Justiciar of the 
South Isles, having carried out to the letter the 
instructions wherewith they had been charged, 
returned to Knockfergus. It was understood that 
the Earl of Lennox was to lead an expedition against 
the West of Scotland, assisted by the Lord of the 
Isles, with eight thousand men. It was stipulated, 
in terms of the agreement already quoted, that so 
long as Lennox remained in the country of Argyle, 
the forces of Donald were to aid him in undiminished 
strength, but on his proceeding to any other part of 
Scotland, he should be accompanied by six thousand 
men. It was also arranged that the Earl of Ormond 
should levy two thousand " kerns and gallowglasses" 
to assist Lennox in his campaign, while the Irish 
Privy Council made all necessary preparations to 
equip this force for military duty. 

Matters were thus maturing rapidly for an inva- 
sion of Scotland in force, and vexed as that country 


was at the time by civil and religious discord, it is 
hard to say what the result might have been had not 
circumstances intervened to postpone decisive action. 
At this particular moment the Earl of Hertford was 
preparing to invade Scotland, and for some reason 
which history does not record, Lennox, along with 
other Scottish nobles in the English interest, was 
summoned to his camp. Lennox, who seems all 
along to have displayed a lack of promptitude and 
resolution, lingered among his English friends, and 
his procrastination proved fatal to the projected 
descent upon the West of Scotland. Donald Dubh 
and his Council had all along pressed upon their 
English allies the necessity of immediate action if 
success was to crown their efforts, but now the 
golden opportunity was lost, and the Lord of the 
Isles, after waiting for Lennox till his own patience 
and that of his followers was exhausted, and becom- 
ing concerned about his own interests in Scotland, 
returned thither with his army. Shortly thereafter 
discord and contention, the inevitable percursors of 
failure, began to appear among the barons of the 
Island Council. The distribution of the gold given 
by Henry YIII. for the payment of a section of the 
Highland army awakened murmurings and discon- 
tent. Hector Maclean, Lord of Dowart, had been 
entrusted with the disbursement of the funds, but 
whether the distribution was not impartially con- 
ducted, or some other unrecorded causes operated, it 
is clear that the treasure-laden Argosy, which, 
according to M'Vurich,^ came from England to the 
Sound of Mull, had a demoralising effect upon the 
unity and loyalty of Donald Dubh's following, and 

^ Reliquiie CelLicio, vol. II., p. 167. 





■% I .^ 5-^0 ^^ •?( 

^1 i 


his once formidable array became a dissolving scene 
of anarchy, and melted away like a snow wreath in 

When the Earl of Lennox arrived in Ireland he- 
found, not only that the armament on which he so 
much relied had quitted Knockfergus for the Isles, 
but that on arriving at its native shores it had been 
dispersed, resolved into its constituent elements. 
He, however, determined to avail himself of the 
force that was being organised by the Earl of 
Ormond, under instructions of the Irish Privy 
Council, for the invasion of Scotland, and pending 
the completion of the preparations, he despatched 
Patrick Colquhoun with a few vessels to the Isles, 
with the view of ascertaining whether Douald Dubh 
remained loyal to Henry, and if an army could still 
be raised to help in the projected invasion. On the 
17th November Lennox sailed from Dublin with a 
considerable and well-equipped fleet and 2000 Irish 
soldiers, with the Earl of Ormond in command. 
Meanwhile the Castle of Dunbarton, one of the main 
objects of the intended attack, had been delivered 
into the hands of the Regent, and the Earls of 
Lennox and Ormond, on learning this, as well as 
becoming fully aware of the hopeless disorganisation 
among the barons of the Isles, seem to have 
abandoned aggressive action in the West. The 
records^ from which we derive much of our know- 
ledge of Scottish history in this age break off 
abruptly in October, 1545, and we are left in com- 
parative ignorance of many of the events that 
followed. According to MacVurich, Donald Dubh 
accompanied the Earl of Lennox back to Ireland, 
with the view of raising a new force for the pursuit 

^ State papers. 



of his cause in the Scottish Isles ; but we gather 
from the same authority that on his way to Dubhn 
he died at Drogheda of a fever of five nights. Mac- 
Yurich says that he left neither son nor daughter, 
but according to the documents in the State Paper 
Office, already quoted at such length, in his dying 
moments he bequeathed his affection to the English 
King, to whom also he commended the care of his 
natural son.^ Thus died Donald Dubh, after a 
gallant though unsuccessful struggle to recover and 
maintain the power and possessions of his fathers. 
He cannot justly be blamed for disloyalty to Scot- 
land and trafiicking with her foes ; for if Scotland 
was his mother country, she acted from his infancy 
as a cruel and relentless stepmother, to whom he 
owed neither gratitude nor affection, but who had 
robbed him of his patrimony, cradled him in a prison, 
and placed the stigma of illegitimacy on his name. 
Loyalty among those of his time who owed more 
than he did to their country, was scarce as roses in 
December, and it was not to be expected in one who, 
like the last of the House of Isla, had been the 
victim of half-a-century of wrong. Donald Dubh 
must liave inherited much of the intrepidity of his 
father when his ardour was not quite crushed by 
fifty years of confinement. Instead of suffering his 
spirit to be broken, his courage survived the squalor 
and th© fetters, the lion though caged was a lion 
still, and as soon as he trod his native heather, he 
shows the imperial spirit of his race by taking the 
place which by rights was his at the head of the 
vassals of the Isles. The Earl of Lennox paid every 
mark of respect to the memory of the departed 
chief, and his obsequies were celebrated with a 

^ Gregory's History ad tcmjjus. 


magnificence acceptable to the minds of his Island 

We have it on the authority of Tytler^ that 
Donald Dubh, having left no legitimate heir of his 
body, nominated as his successor to the Lordship 
of the Isles James Macdonald of Dunnyveg, and 
that, notwithstanding the fact that he alone, among 
the Highland chiefs, refrained from following his 
banner. That his brother Angus, however, appears 
among the barons of the Isles who constituted the 
court of the late Lord seems to indicate that the 
Chief of Clann Iain Mhoir may have been at heart, 
if not ostensibly, in sympathy with the movement. 
The Chief of Sleat was a minor, and in the unsettled 
condition of affairs, if the Lordship of the Isles had 
any chance of being maintained upon the old footing 
it must be represented by a capable and mature 
head. Failing a descendant of Donald of Harlaw 
to succeed Donald Dubh, the representation natur- 
ally devolved upon the head of the family of John 
Mor Tainistear. 

The Earl of Lennox, who still contemplated the 
conquest of Scotland, sent messengers to the Isles 
with intimation of Donald's death, as well as his 
nomination of his successor, and shortly thereafter 
James Macdonald of Dunnyveg was elected by the 
clansmen to assume the vacant honour. We find, 
however, that while the cadet families of Macdonald 
favoured his pretensions, the majority of the other 
vassals — including such powerful chiefs as Maclean, 
Macleod of Lewis, Macleod of Harris, along with 
the Macneills, Mackinnons, and Macquarries — were 
opposed to the election." A reaction had set in 
against the English alliance, and the Highland 
Chiefs, beginning to anticipate the probable failure 

^ Vol. v., p. 406. '^ Gregory ad tempvs. 


of English designs in Scotland, were endeavouring 
to make their peace with the Regent Arran. 

Meanwhile the messengers of Lennox returned 
to Dublin bearing letters from James Macdonald 
of Dunnyveg, " which now declareth himself Lord 
of the Isles by the consent of the nobility of the 
Lisulans as the bearers affirm," to the Privy Council 
of Ireland. On their arrival at the Irish capital 
on the 10th February, 1546, a plenipotentiary from 
the Lord of Dunnyveg, who accompanied the 
messengers to Ireland, was dispatched at the 
request of the new Lord to deliver an important 
letter to the King of England. This letter was 
in due course delivered, and as it represents the 
last flickering flame of Celtic sovereignty in the 
Isles, its precise terms may here be quoted : — 

"Att Ai'iiamurchau, the 24th day of Januar, the yeh' of 
God ane thowsand fyef huudyr 46 yeir 
" We James McConaill of Dunnewaik and ye glinnis, and 
aperand aeyr of ye Yllis grantis us to sene speciall letter deretik 
fra your Lordschip to owr knyis men and alyas thchyng the efFecte 
and forme of yair promyssis to ye Kyng of Ynlandis Majeste to 
fortyfe and suple our noble cusyng Mathew Erie of Lennox. 
Quairfoir we exort and prais your Lordschip, my Lord Deput of 
Yrland, with ye weill awyissit Consall of Duply n, to schaw in owr 
behalf and exprem to ye Kingis Majeste, that we are reddy, eftir 
our extrem power, our Kinyesman and alya namely our cusyng 
Alan McKlayn of Gyga, Clanronald, Clanechanroun, Clancayn, 
and our awin sowrname, bayth north and sowth, to tak ane pairt 
with ye said Erll of Lenox, or ony oder qwhat sumever, ye Kingis 
Majeste plaissis, to have autyrize or constitut be his grace, in 
Scotland ; leilly and trewly the foirsaid Kingis Majeste sendand 
pairt of power to us, in company with ye said Erll of Lenox in ane 
honest army to ye Yll of Sanday, besyd Kintyer, at Sanct Patrikis 
day next to cowm, or yairby, athowe ye said maist excellent Prence 
gifFand to us his Majestes raward and sikar, band conformand and 
equivalent his Gracis band maid to our cheyf maister Donald Lord 
Yllis, whom God asolzeit, ye quhilk deid in his Graceis serwece 


yis beand acceptibill promist and admittit, we require twa or thre 
schyppis to be send to us to ye abowen expromit place, with yeis 
berar Hector Donaldsone, beand ane pylayt to ye sammyn, 20 
dayes or yo army cowmcs, that we might be foruest and gadderit 
agayns ye comyng of ye said army ; to quhawm plais your Lord- 
schip geif firm credence in our behalf. And for kepying and 
obserwyng of yir presente promittes, desyring siklyke formaly to 
be send to us with ye said schippis, we haif affixit our proper seill 
to the samyng, with our subscription manuall, the day, zeir, and 
place abown expremit. 

"James McConil of Dunnewaik and Glennis." 

The overtures of the Lord of Dunnyveg did not, 
so far as we can gather, meet with any response 
from the EngUsh King or his Council. The reasons 
for this oversight, so inconsistent with Henry's 
policy in the past, are to be found in contemporary 
history. For one thing, the Earl of Lennox, who the 
previous year had by his delay on the English 
borders led to the failure of Donald Dubh's rebellion 
now by undue haste rendered abortive the proposals 
of the new Lord of the Isles. Without waiting for 
the return of his own envoy from the Isles bearing 
communications from James Macdonald of Dunny- 
veg, he had, with the Earl of Ormond, led an 
expedition to the Western Isles, which eventually 
succeeded in nothing, because it had attempted 
nothing beyond a naval demonstration ; and now 
when the messengers from Macdonald arrived at 
Dublin, the absence of Lennox, who was the main- 
spring of Henry's designs and the chief instrument 
of his policy in Scotland, proved disastrous to the 
new undertaking. On the other hand, Henry VIII. , 
deeply engrossed in the intrigues with the Scottish 
nobles that led to the murder of Cardinal Beaton, 
found his hands too fall to permit attention to the 
particular detail of his policy which affected the 


Isles of Scotland. It was not, we suppose, that he 
underestimated the importance of this particular 
card in the diplomatic game which he was playing, 
but he seems to have put oif consideration of it to a 
more convenient season. By the time he was 
prepared to take it up again, the Lord of Dunnyveg 
had abandoned his claim. Having met with no 
active co-operation from England in vindicating the 
position to which he was elected, he took no overt 
action, subsided once more into the attitude of a 
loyal subject, and was restored to favour with the 
Scottish Regent. This was the final episode in the 
eventful history of the Island Lordship, and with it 
passed away the last vestige of hope among the 
Clan Donald vassals that the ancient principality, 
which had withstood the political storms of ages, 
might yet be restored. 




Structure of Celtic Society. — The Council of St Finlaggan. — 
Accounts of Proclamation of Lords of the Isles. — An Inde- 
pendent Mortuath. — Tanistry. — The Toshach. — The Judge. 
— Officials. — Relation to the Land. — The Tribe-lands. — 
Demesne and Church Lands. — Law of Gavel. — The Nobility 
and Commonalty. — -Mackintosh Charter. — Herezeld Blodwite. 
— Ward and Relief. — Marriage Law. — Hand-fasting. — State 
and Wealth of Island Princes. 

The Lordship of the Isles, as must appear to our 
readers, was the most considerable survival in 
Scotland of the old Celtic system which in earlier 
ages so widely prevailed. It was on account of the 
truly Celtic character and spirit of the heads of the 
House of Isla and their maintenance of the traditions 
of the Gael, that the distinctively Celtic elements of 
society throughout the Western Highlands clung so 
tenaciously to the order of things represented in the 
institutions of the Island Lordship. We have seen 
that the history of this principality was to a large 
extent a conflict between the two sets of social 
forces represented by the words Celt and Saxon. 
In the course of our narrative it was felt to conduce 
to clearness if we dealt separately and with greater 
minuteness with those characteristics of Gaelic 
society embedded in the systems that prevailed 
under the Clan Donald chiefs. We therefore 
propose in this chapter to glance, not exhaustively 
or with great or original research, at the structure 


of Celtic social polity and at the conditions of social 
life, as both these are connected directly or indirectly 
with the history of the Lordship of the Isles. It 
can hardly be expected that, in a country where 
Celticism and Teutonism co-existed so long during 
ages of which the social history is very obscure, we 
should be able to find the former flourishing in a 
condition unaffected by the predominant influence 
of the latter. As a matter of fact, much of our 
knowledge regarding the ancient Celtic polity of 
Scotland is arrived at by inference and deduction, 
aided by what is known of other Celtic lands such 
as Ireland and Wales, rather than from actually 
ascertained facts. The evidence is to a large extent 
circumstantial rather than direct. Our enquiries 
must be begun, continued, and ended amid circum- 
stances largely conditioned by feudal influences, and 
in the midst of these we can obtain but occasional 
and dim conceptions of Celtic polity in its pristine 

Feudalism had gained a thorough ascendancy 
in Scotland in the twelfth century, when the ('Ian 
Cholla emerge out of the obscurity in which the 
Norse occupation had placed them, and although 
Somerled and his descendants strenuously opposed 
its encroachments upon their own domains, that 
system was gradually becoming the most powerful 
influence in the political life of the country. In 
one respect, viz., their relation to the Crown, 
Celticism and feudalism produced similar results. 
If the great feudal baron, the lord of wide acres, 
who through his ownership of the soil wielded 
supreme power over his vassals, often acted as an 
independent ^Drince, the great Highland chief, who, 
as head of his tribe, possessed their undying homage, 


was equally disposed to assert his independence ; 
and at some critical periods l)oth proved equally 
dangerous to the authority, and even the existence, 
of the State. 

In considering the structure of Celtic society, we 
may naturally expect that the growth and develop- 
ment of the system should proceed according to the 
analogy of all organic progress. In nature we find 
organisms adapting themselves to their environment, 
and- the functions which their surroundings compel 
them to discharge inevitably lead to the development 
of special organs. The complex oi-ganism of society 
is no exception to the rule, and it will be found that 
the peculiarities of Gaelic society owe their special 
form and character to the exigencies of its history. 
In early times, and before the growth of those great 
and manifold industries which have arisen in modern 
times, and are not directly connected with pastoral 
or agricultural pursuits, society was solely dependant 
upon the primary products of the soil. Hence, as 
might be expected, the organisation of ancient 
society, with its gradation of ranks and differentia- 
tion of functions and offices, was conditioned by its 
relation to the occupancy of land. As of other 
branches of the great Aryan Family, this is true of 
the two kindred branches of that family, the Celt 
and the Teuton. Much of the philosophy of their 
social development is found in their respective 
methods of occupying and possessing land. While 
there are certain resemblances, as might be expected, 
between the land system of the Celt and of the 
Teuton, we find also wide and deeply-seated distinc- 
tions. There are two leading types of land tenure 
to be met with in the ancient history of nations, one 
or other of which is characteristic of all European 


nations — indeed, it may almost be said of ail nations 
— one of which may be described as feudal and the 
other as tribal. According to the former of these, 
the land was the absolute property of the overlord, 
who exacted from the occupiers military service, or 
such commutation thereof as he might accept, 
while, according to the latter, the land was 
the property of the community or tribe, whose 
patriarchal head or chief exercised superiority over 
it in name and on behalf of the tribe. Variations of 
each of these types no doubt are observable, owing 
to the mingling of races and the consequent modifi- 
cation of culture and institutions which now and 
then occurred during the progress of so many ages ; 
but the systems stand out clear and distinct in their 
main character and outlines. It seems fairly well 
proved by the learned researches of the best 
authorities that the land system of Teutonic nations 
was feudal, and that of Celtic nations tribal and 
patriarchal. The vassal of the feudal baron owed 
allegiance to him, not as the head of his race, but as 
the superior of the land he occupied ; while the 
Celtic vassals owed allegiance to their chief, not 
primarily as the lord from whom they derived the 
right to till the soil or pasture their flocks, but as 
the head of the race to which they owed their origin. 
This tribal tenure, with its various characteristics, 
became in historic times subject to many modifica- 
tions, through its contact with the feudal system, 
but its main features are not difficult to perceive ; 
and it is interesting to observe this common pro- 
perty in land surviving in the township system which 
prevails to some extent in the crofting areas of the 
Western Isles. ^ A modern writer, one of the most 

^ Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. III., p. 378, et seq. 


learned of our Scottish historians, seeks to minimise 
the distinctions between the social polity of the 
Teuton and the Celt.^ He does not admit that the 
definition of " patriarchal" at all applies to the latter 
as distinguished from the former, and he maintains 
that the land tenure of the Celt is not based upon the 
principles of the community, in which all share alike, 
but upon those of the kingdom, with its various 
gradations both of property and rank. While it is 
possible unduly to accentuate the differences between 
the two phases of polity, it is equally so to ignore 
those differences. The principles of the kingdom are 
no doubt traceable in the structure of Celtic society, 
but this does not imply that the relation of the com- 
munity to the land was ought else than tribal, and 
this we hope, in some measure, to indicate in the 
course of the present chapter. 

The Lordship of the Isles having survived as a 
form of Celtic polity for hundreds of years after the 
dissolution of the great tribes or Mortuaths of Scot- 
land, affords us at some points an interesting light 
upon the social life of the Gael in ancient times. 
Hugh Macdonald, the Seanachie of Sleat, has con- 
ferred a boon upon the students of Highland history 
if for naught else for the record he has left of the 
crowning of the Lord of the Isles, as well as of the 
Council of Finlaggan, with its gradations of social 
rank.^ The proclamation of the Kings of Innse-Gall 
was a ceremony of much display and pomp, as well as 
affording evidence of the poetic symbolism character- 
istic of the people. The Bishops of Argyle and the 
Isles, on account of their territorial connection with 
these Island magnates, gave the benediction of the 

^ Robertson's Scotland under her Early Kings, vol. 11., ji. 197, tt aeq. 
- Collect, dc Reb. Alb., p. 29(3-97. 


Church to the function, while the Chieftains of all 
the families and a ruler of the Isles were also present 
on the occasion. The newly proclaimed King stood 
on a square stone seven or eight feet long, with a 
foot-mark cut in it, and this gave symbolic expression 
to the duty of walking uprightly and in the footsteps 
of his predecessors, while his installation into his 
dignities and possessions was also in this fashion set 
forth. He was clothed in a white habit as a sign of 
innocence and integrity of heart, and that he would 
be a light to his people and maintain the true 
religion. The white apparel did afterwards belong 
to the poet by right, probably, though the seanachie 
does not say so, that it might i aspire him to sing of 
the heroes of the past. Then he was to receive a 
white rod in his hand, the whiteness indicating that 
though he had power to rule it was not to be with 
tyranny and partiality, but with discretion and 
sincerity. Then there was given to him his fore- 
fathers' sword, signifying that his duty was to protect 
and defend his people from the incursions of their 
enemies in peace or war, as the customs and obliga- 
tions of their predecessors were. The ceremony 
being over, mass was said after the blessing of the 
Bishop and seven priests, the whole people pouring 
forth their prayers for the success and prosperity of 
their newly created Lord. When they were dis- 
missed the Lord of the Isles feasted them for a week 
thereafter, and gave liberally to the monks, poets, 
bards, and musicians. 

The foregoing description is in almost all its 
details identical with Martin's account of the cere- 
monial prevalent early in the eighteenth century in 
connection with the entrance of a new chieftain 
upon the Government of his clan. The Lordship of 


the Isles had fallen about two hundred years previous 
to this time, yet the custom of his day is carefully 
modelled upon the time-honoured ceremony of the 
crowninof of the Lords of the Isles ; and Martin 
having been by birth and upbringing a Skyeman 
and a native of Troternish, it is highly probable that 
he refers to the inauguration of the barons of Sleat 
into the Chiefship of Clan Uisdein. The only vari- 
ation is that the young chieftain stood upon a 
pyramid of stones while his friends and followers 
stood round about him in a circle, his elevation 
signifying his authority over them, and their 
standing below their subjection to him, also that 
immediately after the proclamation of the chief, the 
chief Druid (or Orator) stood close to the pyramid 
and performed a rhetorical panegyric setting forth 
the ancient pedigree, valour, and liberality of the 
family as incentives to the young chieftain and fit 
for his imitation. Hugh Macdonald indicates the 
presence of the bard at the older ceremonial, though 
he says nothing about the metrical effusion in which 
the event must always have been celebrated. The 
office of the bard had also been closely associated 
with the coronation of the Celtic Kings of Scotland, 
and even after the days of David I., when a feudal 
monarchy was firmly established on the throne, the 
Celtic ceremonial continued in use after the feudal 
observances were concluded, and the bard recited 
the royal genealogy in Gaelic to show that the 
Kings ruled over the realm of Scotland by the right 
of long descent, and as the representatives of the 
line of Alban's Kings.^ The coronation stone seems 
to have been a common feature of these Celtic 
celebrations, and in the stone on St Finlaggan Isle 

1 Robertson's Scotlaiid uuder the Eaiiy Kings, vol. XL, !>. 54. 


we liave something similar to the lia fail, or stone 
of destiny, still to be seen beneath the coronation 
chair at Westminster, a survival of the immemorial 
custom among ancient peoples of marking, by monu- 
ments of stone, events which they desired to keep in 
perpetual remembrance. That the ceremony thus 
described by the authorities quoted was based upon 
ancient Irish usage seems to be beyond question, 
and there is evidence that the custom survived in 
Ireland as late as the sixteenth century, and 
probably existed there up to a later day. Edmund 
Spenser, author of the " Fairy Queen," who spent 
many years in that country as secretary to Lord 
Grey of Wilton, gives an account of the installation 
of a chief among the Irish, which by reason of 
its confirmation of the statements of Highland 
authorities is deserving of literal quotation : — 
" They use to place him that shall be their Captain 
upon a stone always reserved to that purpose, and 
placed commonly upon a hill. In some of which 
I have seen formed and engraven a foot ; whereon 
he, standing, receives an oath to preserve all their 
ancient former customs inviolate ; and to deliver up 
the succession peaceably to his Tanist ; and then 
hath a wand delivered to him b}^ some whose proper 
office that is, after which, descending from the stone, 
he turneth himself round thrice forwards and thrice 
backwards."^ Hugh Macdonald does not inform us 
where the coronation of the Lords of the Isles 
actually took j^lace, but the inference to be drawn 
from his description is that Eilean na Coinihairle, 
the Island of Council, was the scene of that cere- 
monial. There would be no reason to doubt such a 
conclusion were it nut that the only other reference 

^ View of Ireland, by Edmund Spenser. 


to the Proclamation of the Lord of the Isles locates 
the crowning of Donald of Harlaw at Kildonan, in 
the Island of Eigg. While this was undoubtedly 
the case, we think it still the more probable view 
that the islet on Loch St Finlaggan, with its table 
of stone, and its place of judgment, close by the 
larger isle, on which stood the chapel and palace of 
the kings, must have been the scene of the historic 
rite, and that the proclamation of Donald as Lord 
of the Isles at Kildonan must have arisen out of 
conditions which at this time of day it is difficult to 
estimate. It seems, however, that the Isle of Eigg 
must have been regarded as a suitable place of 
gathering for the vassals of the Isles, for we find the 
Council of Donald Dubh assembled there in 1545, 
when they appointed Commissioners to treat with 
Henry VIIL It is to be noted that the place of 
sepulture for the wives and children of the Lords of 
the Isles was on the larger isle on Loch Finlaggan, 
while the Island potentates themselves were always 
borne in solemn state to the sacred Isle of Hy. 

The supplementary passage to that in which the 
historian of SI eat records the proclamation of the 
Lords of the Isles, and in which he describes the 
constitution of the Council of Finlaggan, is also 
worthy of consideration in any review of the social 
history of the Island Lordship. The constitution 
or government of the Isles, he says, was thus : — 
" MacDonald had his Council at Island Finlaggan in 
Isla to the number of 16, namely, four thanes, four 
armins, that is to say, four lords or sub-thanes, four 
bastards (i.e.) squires or men of competent estates, 
who could not come up with Armins or Thanes, that 
is freeholders or men that had the land in factoiy as 
Magee of the Kinds of Isla, MacNicoll in Portree in 


Skye, and MacEachren MacKay and MacGillivray 
in Mull. There was a table of stone where this 
Council sat in the Isle of Finlaggan ; the whole 
table with the stone on which MacDonald sat 
were carried away by Argyle with the bells that 
were at Icolmkill. Moreover, there was a judge in 
every Isle for the discussion of all controversies who 
had lands from MacDonald for their trouble and 
likewise the 11th part of every action decided. But 
there might still be an appeal to the Council of the 
Isles. MacFinnon was obliged to see weights and 
measures adjusted, and MacDuffie or Macphee of 
Colonsay kept the Records of the Isles." 

We have here a complete and self-contained 
system of Gaelic polity representing in outline the 
action of a free and autonomous principality. The 
question naturally arises, whence does it come ? and 
before entering with any minuteness into the condi- 
tion of things adumbrated by the Seanachie, it may 
be desirable to point out the historical relation of 
the Lordship of the Isles to the rest of Celtic 
Scotland. On this point it will be unnecessary to 
dwell at length, inasmuch as certain aspects of it 
were dealt with in an early chapter. Historians are 
agreed that Scotland, during the period of the Picts 
or ancient Caledonians, was divided into seven 
provinces, all owning the supremacy of one Ardrigli, 
or high King, while each of the provinces was under 
the government of a king of less dignity and power 
than the supreme head, called Oirrigh, but who 
within his own dominions exercised something 
approaching absolute power. Two of the leading 
authorities are somewhat at issue as to one at least 
of the leading features of Celtic polity in the great 
provinces or Mortuaths. Dr Skene maintains that 


these petty kingdoms under their Mormaors endured 
as part of the national Celtic system, until it gave 
way in the eleventh and twelfth centuries before the 
establishment of a feudal monarchy, and that these 
Mormaors were their hereditary rulers.^ Dr J. 
Stewart, on the other hand, upholds the view that the 
seven provinces of Celtic Scotland disappeared with 
the Union of Dalriada and Pictavia in the ninth 
century ; that this fusion of the two kingdoms 
resulted in a large increase of the power and 
possessions of the suj)reme King, owing to the 
annexation of considerable portions of tlie tribe- 
lands to the crown, and that the Mormaors were 
not the hereditary kings or provincial orrighs, but 
stewards appointed by the crown and answerable 
for the crown dues. In most cases the hereditary 
rulers stepped into the fiscal office. We are disposed 
to adopt the views of Dr Stewart on this matter as 
that best borne out by the ascertained facts of 
history. It is, on the whole, the more feasible view 
that the seven divisions disa23j)eared as hereditary 
principalities or kingdoms after the Pictish monarchy 
was replaced by the Scoto-Irish dynasty of Kenneth 
MacAlpin, and that Southern Scotland became one 
state with an undivided rule. It also seems well 
established that it is only after this period of national 
consolidation that there is any record of the title 
Mormaor being used, that being the time ax hypothesi 
that these provincial officers came into existence ; 
while in Galloway and Lothian, which were not 
united with Scotia until after the period of 
Mormaors, such a name never appears. On the 
whole there seems no sufficient evidence of any 
trace either in Gaelic history, poetry, or tradition 

^ Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. III. The Book of Deer, preface, pp. 7S, 70. 



of the term Maor or Mormaor as applied to the 
chief or king either of a province or tribe, certainly 
not to any of the hereditary rulers of Argyie and 
the Isles, which Dr Skene reckons as one of the 
seven ancient provinces of Alban. The term Maor, 
whether Mor or otherwise, always means an officer 
acting under some superior authority for the adminis- 
tration of law, or the collection of rates or dues, or 
some other civil or ecclesiastical purpose. Dr Skene 
emphasises the significance of a passage in the Book 
of Deer in whicli the names of the seven Mormaors of 
Buchan appear as flourishing during the five centuries 
between the foundation of the Celtic monastery in 
the time of Columba and the reign of David I., and 
this he regards as a confirmation of his view. It 
must be borne in mind, however, that the historical 
entries in the Book of Deer were written in the 
eleventh century, three hundred years after the 
Mormaors, according to our view, had superseded 
the Orrighs or provincial Kings, and the name had 
long become the traditional title of these ancient 
reguli, and as a part of the social system were only 
passing away. It was very natural, therefore, for 
the writer to describe the ancient hereditary rulers 
of Buchan in the terms most intelligible in his own 

In what relation did the Lords of the Isles and 
the community, of which they were the heads, stand 
to the general system of Celtic Scotland ? Dr 
Skene's theory that the reguli of Argyie, Somerled 
and his predecessors, were the representatives of the 
Mormaors of Oirthirghael, and that the tribe over 
which they reigned formed one of the seven great 
communities of ancient Pictdom, would no douljt fit 
in symmetrically with his main historical induction. 


We have not, however, disputed the general trend 
of GaeUc and Irish tradition, that the Hne of Somer- 
led was a branch of the Scoto-Irish race, owning 
allegiance to the Kings of Dalriada during the 
separate existence of that dominion, but after the 
ninth century becoming the chief Dalriadic family in 
Oirthirghael and Innse-Gall. This question has been 
already discussed by us, but we wish, in this con- 
nection, to lay stress upon the fact that the branch 
of the Clan Cholla, represented by the tribe of 
Somerled, rose into eminence after the disappearance 
of t]:ie seven provinces that constituted the national 
system of Scotland, and that, therefore, their 
position was absolutely unique. Hence it was 
that the Lordship of the Isles never formed part 
of the old system of Caledonia, and that these 
kings of the Western Gael were for ages inde- 
pendent princes, owning no allegiance to Celtic or 
Saxon potentate. 

Before proceeding further in our review of the 
political elements embraced in the Lordship of the 
Isles, it is desirable that we should at this sta.g'e 
touch briefly and in a general way upon some of tlie 
features of the tribal organisation of the Celt, after 
which we shall enquire how far these features are to 
be met with in the history of the Island Lordship. 
The social unit was the Tuath or Cineol, while 
several Tuaths constituted a Mortuath each with its 
King, while in Scotland the seven Mortuaths were, 
as already stated, subject to the one Ardrigh. The 
structure of society in Ireland was very much after 
the same type, save that instead of seven provinces 
there were but five, each of which was called a 
coigcamh or fifth, while these provinces, well known 
in Highland legendary lore as Coir/ Clioigeamh na 


h-Eirinn, were all subject to one Ardrigh, who 
swayed the sceptre in Tara. The Kingdom of 
Dalriada in Scotland embraced too small a territory 
to constitute so large a social organism. It never 
attained to more than the dimensions of a mo^'tuath, 
consisting of three tribes or Cineol, viz., Cineol 
Lorn, Cineol Gabhran, Cineol Eoghainn, though it 
always had its independent kings. Again, within 
the Tuath there arose the^ne or sept, a miniature 
of the larger polity, in which its features were 
reproduced ; in fact, throughout the tribal organisa- 
tion of the Celt, from the congeries of Cineols which 
formed the Kingdom, down to the fine or sept, a 
unity of type and idea prevailed. The head of a 
tribe, or of the series of tribes constituting a mor- 
tuath, occupied that position in virtue of his descent 
from the founder of the race, whether mythical or 

While, however, the headship of a race always 
remained in one particular family — so long as a male 
representative of a race existed capable of succeeding, 
the succession did not descend from father to son 
in the more primitive stages of Celtic culture. 
It proceeded according to the law of Tanistry, a 
principle which, in view of the causes that produced 
it, was a fundamental element of Celtic society. 
In accordance therewith, brothers succeeded prefer- 
ably to sons ; and this for two reasons. The root 
idea of the system lay in the connection of the tribe 
with its founder, and the Chief or King held his 
position as head of the race on account of his com- 
parative nearness of kin to the founder. But the 
brother was a step or generation nearer the founder 
than the son, and for this reason his claim to succeed 
was considered stronger. There was, however. 


another, and for practical purposes a stronger reason 
than sentiment for the operation of this law of 
succession. As distinguished from feudalism, with 
its well-nigh absolute property in land, and its 
absolute claim upon the service of the vassals, the 
patriarchal system was largely limited by the will 
and interests of the tribe. The chief was the father 
of his people, but his paternity must be exercised 
for the good of the entire family, and whether this 
ideal was actually fulfilled or not in individual 
instances, it was the principle upon which the Celtic 
system was based. He was the superior of the land 
for the people, and in all other respects was supposed 
to rule in a manner productive of the greatest 
happiness of the greatest number. It was, no 
doubt, from this fusion of the interests of the Chief 
and his clan, and the absence of anything like an 
iron despotism ; from this enlargement of the 
family idea centred in the head and realised more 
or less by all the members, that sprang that devoted 
attachment to the person of the Chief which char- 
acterised the Highlanders as a race. Now, in this 
law of succession by Tanistry, matters were ordered 
in the interests of the community. Self-preservation 
is an elementary law of nature in society as well as 
in the individual, and here we meet with an appli- 
cation of the law by which society developes its life 
according to the exigencies of its environment. The 
welfare of a tribe and its retention of its possessions 
largely depended upon its having a chief of mature 
years and tried valour, capable of administering its 
internal affairs in time of peace and of leading its 
hosts to battle when threatened by the foe. Thus 
it came to pass that in order to obviate the possi- 
bility of having a minor as chief, it became a settled 


law of Celtic polity that during the lifetime of every 
chief, a brother or the nearest male representative 
of the family was installed into the position of 
Tanist, who, upon the chiefship becoming vacant, 
immediately and indisputably stepped into the 
vacant place. The feudal law of primogeniture may 
have controlled, and of course largely did control, 
the later phases of Celtic life in Scotland ; but the 
law of Tanistry was undoubtedly the old law of 
succession, and amid the din of controversy which 
sometimes assails our ears as to the chiefship of 
Highland clans, it seems to be often overlooked that 
primogeniture cannot be regarded as the sole or 
even the main principle to guide the settlement of 
the question. 

We have ample evidence of the existence of the 
law of Tanistry in the succession of the Celtic Kings 
of Scotland disclosed in the Albanic Duan, and it is 
interesting to notice that in the controversy between 
the elder Bruce and Balliol for the Crown, the 
former bears testimony to the existence in former 
times of this tanistic law. Bruce's third pleading 
was, "that the manner of succession to the Kingdom 
of Scotland in former times made for his claim, for 
that the brother as being nearest in degree [ratione 
2Droximitatis in gradu) was wont to be preferred to 
the son of the deceased King. Thus when Kenneth 
M'Alpin died, his brother Donald was preferred to 
his son Constantino ; thus when Constantine died, 
his brother Edh was preferred to his son Donald, 
and thus the brother of Malcolm III. reigned after 
him to the exclusion of the son of Malcolm III."^ 
As, however, the succession always remained in the 
same family, it very generally came back again, by 

^ Skene's Higlxlanders of Scotland, vol. I., p. 160, 


the operation of the same law, to the surviving son 
of the chief wiio had formerly been passed over. Dr 
Skene quotes a curious passage from an old chronicle, 
which sheds an interesting light upon the same 
question. ^ 1 1 informs us that there was an ancient law 
by which "in case that the children of the deceissand 
suld not have passit the aige of fourteen zeirs, that 
he of the blude wha was nerrest beand worthie and 
capable suld be elected to reign during his lyffe, 
without prejudice of the richteous heretouris whan 
they atteinit the parfite age." We learn from this 
writer that a considerable modification had taken 
place in the law of succession in his time. The 
tanist in this case occupied the position of regent, 
and only when the son of the chief was a minor did 
he assume the reigns of government. It thus 
appears that in course of time the sentiment which 
confined the succession to the generation next of kin 
to the founder was beginning to lose its force, and 
that the practical question alone was considered, how 
to secure a capable head for the tribe. It is note- 
worthy that the early age of fourteen years was not 
considered too young for a son to succeed to the 
headship of a clan. While the choice of Tanist 
usually fell upon the oldest brother of the last chief, 
circumstances were always considered, and in the 
case of age or physical incapacity or any kind of 
unworthiness, the clan or tribe was supposed to 
possess a residuum of power, by which, in cases of 
emergency, it made its own selection. In virtue of 
this ultimate authority, cases have been known, in 
comparatively modern times, in which power was 
exercised for the deposition of chiefs who proved 
unworthy of their position, and whose sway was 

1 The Highlanders of Scotland, vol. I., p. 161. 


intolerable to the vassals. Instances entirely 
analogous are to be met with in the history of the 
British dynasty, which, although hereditary in its 
occupancy of the throne, has yet, in the person of 
individual monarchs, been removed from the position 
by the common and irresistible sentiment of the 

The Tanist was thus a recognised functionary in 
the political system of the ancient Celt, and by 
reason of his position as the heir apparent of the 
chief he was specially provided for out of his estate. 
It was the immemorial custom that a third part 
of the chief's income should be set apart for him — ■ 
trian Tiglieamais — the third part of a lordship the 
old Highlanders used to call it. Tanistry thus arose 
out of the necessity that the tribe should have a 
capable man of ma.ture, or, at any rate, of competent 
age at its head. As the military head of his race — 
that being, of course, the most important aspect 
of his position — the chief was denominated the 
Toshach, a word obviously corresponding with the 
Gaelic word for first, viz., toiseach, which in turn is 
derived from tus, signifying beginning.^ In the 
course of time the tendency of society is to become 
more complex, and for its officials to increase in 
number. Hence the function of Toshach came to be 
separated from the chief and became the hereditary 
position of the oldest cadet family of the tribe. 
Under the peculiar system of gavel, which falls to 
be considered later on, the family longest separated 
from the main stem, and, consequently, whose 
property was least subject to division, possessed 
its territories in the greatest integrity, and became 
the most outstanding in influence and estate next 

^ The Welsh equivalent of Toshach is Twj'sog. 


to that of the chief himself. Hence it was the 
most fitted to produce a leader or lieutenant-general 
for the tribe, to go before its fighting men when the 
day of danger dawned. The same necessity that 
resulted in the appointment of a tanist or successor 
to the chief, also when ofl[ices became more widely 
differentiated, produced the military captain or 

That the designation of Toshach was also inter- 
changeable with the Saxon title Thane seems to be 
made clear by Dr Skene's researches into the 
system of thanages elucidated in his edition of 
Fordun's Scotichronicon.^ There seems little or no 
reason to doubt that the ancient thanages, of which 
numerous traces remained in the South and West of 
Scotland in the reigns of Malcolm Canraore's sons, 
were the survival, under a Saxon designation, of the 
ancient Tuaths or tribe-lands which existed under 
the old polity of Celtic Scotland, but which were 
attached to the crown. With the reigns of Malcolm 
Canmore and his successors Saxon culture was 
beginning to impress Scottish institutions, and 
while the tribe or Tuath retained many of its Celtic 
characteristics, these, until we examine the social 
texture, are apt to be concealed from us under 
the disguise of Saxon terminology. Thus it was 
that the Mormaor, the successor of the Kino- or 
R-igh Mortuath, the head of each of the sevenfold 
divisions of Scotland, was replaced by the Earl 
or Comes, and the High Tuath or King of the 
smaller tribe came to be designated Thane or Maor. 
An interesting proof of the identity of the old 
thanages with the Gaelic Tuaths, and of Thane 
with Toshach, is given by Dr Skene in his larger 

1 The Hi.storiiins of Scotland, vol. IV., 441-4G0, 


and later work on Celtic Scotland. When the 
Earl of Ross was forfeited in 1475, the lands of 
William Thane of Cawdor, who was a vassal of 
the Earldom, were erected into a new thanage 
with the privileges of a barony ; certain lands in 
the parish of Urquhart, in the Black Isle, detached 
from the old thanage, were incorporated in the new, 
and these lands are to this day designated locally 
and by the Gaelic people Fearann na Toiseachd, 
i.e., Ferintosh, the land of the thanage, evidence of 
the ancient tribal organisation over which the Eigh 
Tuath or Toshach or Thane in ancient times held 
sway. The title more generally applied within 
historical times to a chief or laird, and corresponding 
with Thane or Toshach, was Tighearn, which con- 
veyed the idea of lordship, and of which the Welsh 
equivalent is Teyrn, both evidently cognate with 
the Greek Turannos. The word Tighearn must 
have been originally applied to the highest royal 
dignitary, and this is indicated by the application 
universal among the Gael of the same term to the 
Supreme Being. Though we find the same designa- 
tion used with regard to chiefs in a state of 
vassalage, this is only an instance of the retention 
of a name after it has ceased to be strictly applicable. 
So far, then, we have glanced at the two higher 
grades of Celtic society, the Righ Mortuath, who 
became the Mormaor, and was still further feudal- 
ised into the Comes or Earl, who had his lands 
in capite from the King, and the High Tuath, who 
was also the Toshach, and became feudalised into 
Maor or Thane, responsible for the rents and 
revenues of a thanage. The character of a patri- 
archal chief has thus been subject to a certain course 


of development. He is not only the father of his 
tribe, but its military leader, and under feudal 
influences becomes an official with fiscal duties 
and responsibilities to discharge. The exigencies of 
society have also compelled a devolution of functions. 
The military leadership devolves upon the oldest 
cadet, who becomes the official Toshach, but we find 
that the Toshach has civil duties to perform as well, 
that to his hands are committed the responsibility 
for the fiscal administration of the Crown lands 
within the chiefs domains. 

Another important function which originally 
rested in the chief was that of judge. In this, as in 
other respects, the patriarcli of the tribe was tlie 
fountain of authority, and was known of old in 
Wales and Ireland as the Brennin or Brehon. Here 
also, both among the Cymric and Gaelic Celts, there 
seems to have been a separation of the judicial from 
the military and other functions of the chief, and a 
devolution of the same upon functionaries specially 
set apart. The AVelsh Cynghellwr, the Manx 
Deempster, and the Toshachdeorach of Gaelic Scot- 
land, bear testimony to this fact. 

Having thus briefly indicated the first degree of 
rank in the polity of a Celtic tribe, with some of the 
functions and offices connected therewith, we have 
arrived at a stage at which we can more conveniently 
discuss the relation of the Chief to the occupancy of 
the land, as well as the rights pertaining to his tribe. 
As already stated, the land belonged to the com- 
munity, but the Chief exercised a certain superiority 
or lordship over it, not in his individual and private 
capacity, but as head and in name of the tribe. In 
the earlier stages of Celtic society, private property 
in land did not exist, even on the part of the 


patriarchal head. Individual property was confined 
to what in modern parlance is known as personal or 
moveable estate, such as cattle, sheep, goods and 
chattels. Private property in land was an innova- 
tion on primitive Celtic culture — the Chief having 
in olden times only the same right of pasturage and 
of the allotment of agri cultural land awarded in the 
annual division. The land was owned by the Chief 
and his kindred in common, and all within the limit 
of three generations from the head of the race had a 
claim upon the family inheritance. As each genera- 
tion passed away, or upon the death of the head of 
the house, a fresh division of the Orba, or inherit- 
ance, took place, those entitled to a share being 
designated Aeloden among the Welsh, and Flaith, 
or nobles, among the Gaelic Celts. This division 
took place upon the principle of gavel, a law not 
confined to Celtic races, but more tenaciously 
adhered to by them than by their Saxon neighbours. 
The division of land among the nearest kindred of 
the Chief had the effect of modifying the practical 
operation of a common property in land, and pro- 
moted the growth of an aristocracy or privileged 
caste, who became in time privileged owners of the 
soil. The Orba, or inheritance land, did not exhaust 
the property of the tribe ; for, in addition thereto, 
there was the tribe-land proper, occupied by the 
Ind-jine, the commonalty, who, though of the same 
race as the Chief and his immediate kindred, were 
yet beyond the degrees of consanguinity that con- 
stituted a claim upon the special property of the 
kindred. This was the duchas, or immemorial 
right of the clan, free from taxation, which, under 
the early feudal Kings of Scotland, became attached 
to the Crown. This, according to Dr Skene, and he 


has excellent grounds for the opinion, constituted 
the Saxon thanages. The tribe lands were partly 
agricultural and partly pastoral, the latter being- 
grazed according to the number of cattle possessed 
by each, and the former being subject to periodical 
division, when, owing to the death of former occu- 
pants and the emergence of new claimants, a 
redistribution became necessary. 

Along with the Saor-chlann, the free members of 
tribe, who held their untaxed duchas land in virtue 
of a real or supposed consanguinity with the royal 
race, there usually existed the daor-chlaiin, or, as 
they have also been termed, the native men, or 
Laetic population. These consisted of tribes or 
septs who had lost their rights through conquest, 
and became subject to the conquering clan, or took 
refuge in some neighbouring territory. In the 
former case, having lost their freeborn rights, 
whether oi Duchas or Orba, owing to the subjuga- 
tion of the Chief through whom all their privileges 
flowed, they became virtually bondmen, subject to 
any servitude or taxation imposed upon them, their 
only surviving privilege consisting of the inborn 
right to remain upon the land. These usually 
obtained land from the Flaith, or nobles, and in 
Ireland were termed Fuidhir. They constituted 
the bands known in Irish history as Galloglach,^ or 
Galloglasses, who followed the chiefs to war. They 
were not only subject to compulsory military service, 
but also to taxation in kind, particularly the calpe, 
a word signifying a horse or cow, the exaction being 
usually paid in this special form. Members of the 
clan were not supposed to pay this tribute. From 

^ Probably meauiiig stranger servants— from (VaW = stranger, and Ofjlacli, 
in its secondary sense, a servant man. 


the relation of these broken clans or stranger septs 
to the dominant races arose those peculiar conven- 
tions known as bonds of manrent, in which, for 
services rendered by the subject parties to the 
superiors, the latter undertook their protection 
within their jurisdiction. 

We have seen how the division of the Orba, or 
inheritance lands, upon the succession of a new Chief, 
was always kept within the limits of three genera- 
tions. Consequently, although in each instance the 
fourth in descent was not included in the distribution 
of the ancestral property, yet he not improbably 
might fare better than had he been so included. 
He inherited his father's allotment as a separate and 
fixed inheritance, not subject to the periodical sub- 
division which rendered the tenure of Celtic nobles 
so fluctuating and uncertain. From the ranks of 
the nobles, therefore, there sprang, and was con- 
tinually recruited, a class of landholders inferior to 
the Flaith, but still of gentle birth, called among 
the Irish Gaels Saertach or Brugaidh,^ among the 
Scottish Gael Ogtiern, signifying primarily a young 
lord, but coming secondarily to mean an inferior 
grade of lord. This class was the ancient represen- 
tative of the modern tacksman, both being kinsmen 
of the Chief, and both at times converting their tack 
into a chartered freehold when feudal land tenure 
came into operation. It is also intelligible that as 
the ranks of the Ogtierns were continually swelled 
by descendants of the nobility, so members of this 
inferior grade of Flaith supplied the ranks of the 
commonalty with fresh blood when the periodical 
division of the agricultural lands came about. 

^ Brugaidh was originally the member of an Irish clan who possessed a 
Brwjh, or homestead with a holding. 


In addition to the lands already specified — the 
inheritance and tribe lands proper — there was a 
third class of lands, which may be described as 
official. There being little or no money in these 
early times, land and its products constituted the 
wealth of society, and those for whom the Tuath 
found it necessary to provide were endowed with an 
interest in the soil. Thus the Chief and Tanist had 
to be maintained in a manner suited to their lofty 
station, and for this purpose, along with the 
residence of the hereditary head of the race, there 
was set apart the tribe demesne-lands for the sup- 
port of the royal dignity. The same rule applied to 
the judges and bards, for whom special provision 
was made out of the tribe lands ; and when Christi- 
anity obtained a footing in the country, and churches 
with their religious establishments were planted here 
and there under the protection of the great Celtic 
Chiefs, donations out of the inheritance lands were 
bestowed for the maintenance of the Christian com- 
munity. An interesting quotation from the Brelion 
laws indicates the view taken of the institutions of 
the Celt in those far off times : — " It is no Tuath 
without three noble privileged persons, Eclais or 
Church, Flath or Chief, and Jih or poet." The 
judge is not mentioned in this quotation, but pos- 
sibly the function of judging may still have been 
vested in the Ard Flath when the saying was first 
uttered. The Church lands possessed many privi- 
leges, and, on account of their sacred destination, 
were regarded as conferring a right of sanctuary to 
all who were fortunate enough to obtain a refuge 
within their consecrated borders. On the principle 
of the cities of refuge of Old Testament times, even 
should the avenger of blood be in pursuit of his foe, 


once the latter planted his feet within the holy 
domain, the hand of violence at once was stayed. 
On some notorious occasions sanctuaries have been 
outraged, but in those ages of blood and vengeance 
the deterrent power of bhe Comraich^ must have 
exercised a salutary influence. 

Having thus, with as much brevity as is con- 
sistent with clearness, endeavoured to point out 
some of the leading features of Celtic polity, it 
remains for us to shew under this branch of our sub- 
ject how far the relations of the Lords of the Isles to 
the community over which they ruled, illustrate the 
leading phases of that polity. Taking up the various 
topics in the order in which they have already been 
discussed, we enquire first of all what traces, if any, 
of the Celtic law of Tanistry are to be met with in 
Clan Donald history up to the middle of the 
sixteenth century. To this enquiry we think it may 
be confidently answered that, in the first place, in 
the succession of Angus Og to his brother Alexander, 
the principle of Tanistry entered as a dominating 
influence. It may certainly be said with truth that 
Alexander's opposition to Bruce was a determining 
factor in the case, inasmuch as it shut oat himself 
and his posterity from the possession of the terri- 
tories which belonged to him by hereditary right, 
but could not be enjoyed without the royal favour. 
On the other hand, succession to the chiefship of a 
clan was quite a different matter from lordship over 
lands, and was governed by totally different prin- 
ciples. If succession to lands was now affected by 
feudalism, succession to a chiefship was still, and 
long after, a question upon which the voice of the 
clan, which was a potent element in the law of 

^ Comraich = protection, vide Macbain's Etymological Dictioiiaiy, p. 284. 


tanistry, made itself effectually heard. The suc- 
cession of Angus Og to the exclusion of the son of 
Alexander could hardly have been accomplished so 
quietly, and without any apparent dissent, were it 
not that the succession of one brother to another 
appealed to the traditional sentiments of the race. 
We may be sure that the question was well weighed 
by the Council of Finlaggan, and that the assump- 
tion of the sceptre of the Clan Cholla by Angus Og, 
only took place after due and earnest consideration 
on the part of the officials of the Clan. 

The operation of the same law is to be seen in 
the succession of Donald of Harlaw, preferably to his 
brother Reginald, the son of John of Isla by the 
first marriage. Here also there were causes deter- 
mining the issue, other than the law of tanistry. 
The whole train of events was set in motion by the 
influence of Robert IL to divert the honours of the 
House of Isla to the family of his own daughter. It 
is clear that Reginald, the oldest surviving son of 
Amis Macruari, was the lawful son, and by the law of 
primogeniture the heir of John of Isla. It is equally 
clear that Reginald abandoned his position as the 
heir of his father, both to the chiefship aiid the 
estates, by two acts which are indubitably vouched. 
In the first place, he resigned his rights as the heir 
of his father's lordship by accepting of a charter for 
a portion of the lands of that lordship, and however 
princely in extent the domain thus accruing to him 
certainly was, the charter in question transferred 
him from the position of the prospective Lord of the 
Isles to that of a vassal of the Isles. And in the 
second place, he deprived himself of the Chiefship of 
the Clan, and made himself a vassal Celtically as 
well as feudally, by handing over the sceptre of 



Innse-Gall to Donald at Kildonan. The ceremony 
that took place there was a purely Celtic function, 
and not in any sense a feudal investiture, and it 
seems unquestionably to prove that as, according to 
a root idea of tanistry, Celtic succession was hereditary 
in the family, while it was elective in the individual, 
Donald, on the resignation by his brother Reginald 
of his reversion to the Chiefship, became, with the 
approval of the Clan, Donald of Isla, Lord of the 
Isles, and head of the Family of Macdonald. 

John Mor, second son of John of Isla by his 
second marriage, was called, as is well known, the 
Tainistear of Macdonald. The principle of the title 
and the functions exercised by him in that capacity, 
must have been in accordance with the restricted 
application of the law set forth in the ancient 
Chronicle quoted by Dr Skene. It could not have 
meant that there was any provision for his succeed- 
ing, on the death of his brother Donald, if Donald 
left heirs male of his own body, for the feudal law of 
primogeniture was now too strong to permit of such 
an eventuality. There must, however, have been 
some publicly acknowledged position given to John 
Mor as the Tainistear, though no specific record of the 
fact seems to have survived. Such an appointment 
may have been made to meet certain contingencies 
that were by no means impossible or improbable. 
During the latter days of Donald of Harlaw, his 
son Alexander was in reality the only individual 
standing between the House of Dunnyveg and the 
succession, for Angus, the only other son of Donald, 
had entered the Church, and was therefore ineligible 
for the position. This fact, coupled with Alexander's 
youth, was to all appearance the reason, and a 
sutiicient reason it was, why the name of the founder 


of the House of Dunny veg should have come down 
to us as John Mor Tainistear. Other instances 
of the operation of this Celtic law arose, hut these 
belonged to a period rather later than that under 
consideration. Those already cited are sufficient to 
indicate traces of a principle which in early times 
must have been a dominant feature in the political 
life of the Clan Cholla. 

Of the office of Toshach, or military leader, as 
distinct from the hereditary Chief, we find traces in 
the history of our clan. We have the authority of 
Dr Skene in his earliest work for believing that such 
an office existed, and was recognised, as vested in 
the oldest cadet of the clan ; but although this 
would be in entire accordance with the history and 
genius of the Celt, we have come across no direct 
proof of the fact. Whether this be so or not, we 
find that, practically, the military leader was at times 
some one else than the Chief. Whether Godfrey 
Mac Fergus, Toshach of the Isles, who flourished in 
the eighth century, was the chief of his race, or, 
according to Dr Skene's view, the military leader 
only, and the senior cadet of his tribe, we are unable 
to say. We find, however, a practical application 
of the principle, if not of the name, in the events of 
the time of Alexander, Earl of Koss, and his son 
John. Donald Balloch was the son of John Mor, 
the Tainistear of the Isles, and although that 
title was not applied to Donald, so far as we 
are aware, he probably filled the position, as he 
certainly exercised the functions of the kindred 
office of Toshach, or Captain of the hosts of Clan 
Donald, in the time of both these chiefs. From 
1431 down to 1463, Donald Balloch was the leader 
of the Clan Donald hosts in battle, and remembering 


that he was the head of the leading cadet family of 
the House into which the honours of the line had 
passed, his position is so far a confirmation of the 
view that has been referred to. In more recent 
times the Highlanders seem to have recognised a 
distinction between the military and patriarchal 
head, though neither bard nor seanachie makes use of 
the designation Toshach. The term most closely 
akin is " Captain," which the Gaelic people seem 
very readily to have appropriated to signify the 
same idea. We find it in some instances made use 
of when doubt existed as to the individual so named 
being actually the chief of the clan. John Moy- 
dartach and his father, Alastair Mac Allan, were 
each styled Captain of the Clan E,anald, its fighting 
as distinguished from its patriarchal head, the latter 
being a position which their opponents rightly or 
wrongly — we cannot pause to enquire at present 
which — were not disjDOsed to allow them. Only 
once or twice do we find this title of " Captain" 
applied to any individual of the Family of Sleat. 
In 1545, Archibald the Clerk, who was head of 
the Clan Uisdean during the minority of his grand- 
nephew, styled himself, and was described in public 
records, as " Captain" of the Clan Uisdean. John 
Lorn, the Lochaber bard, in his poem to the first 
Sir James Macdonald of Sleat, concludes his first 
verse with the words — 

" Slaiut do Chaipteiu Clanu Domhauill," &c. 

In this latter case, the title of Captain is applied to 
the actual Chief, but this evidently in his capacity 
of military head of his people. On the whole, we 
are disposed to think that as " Captain" was applied 
to the leader of the tribe in war, as distinguished 


from the hereditary Chief, so its ancient synonym 
(Toshach) would have been the title among the Clan 
Choha given to the official lieutenant-general, when 
he was separate and distinct from the Ceann Chuiidh. 
Like all ancient Celtic offices, it was hereditary, and, 
according to Dr Skene, vested in the family of 
greatest power and influence next to that from 
which the Chief was chosen. 

We have touched upon the judicial functions 
resting in the Chief, or Ceann Cinnidh, and in the 
more advanced stages of Gaelic society devolving 
upon hereditary officials specially endowed with 
lands for their support. Previous to the days of 
Somerled, the Norwegians had a Sheriff of the Isles, 
but under the House of Isla, as Hugh Macdonald, 
the Sleat Seanachie, affirms, there was a judge in 
every isle for the discussion of all controversies, who 
had lands from Macdonald for their trouble, and 
also the eleventh part of every action decided, but 
from whose judgment there was an appeal to the 
Council of Finlaggan, whose decision was absolutely 
final, ^ The judges of the Isles, who might be the 
local barons or special officials, often held their 
courts on the summit of a rising ground, and were 
usually helped in their decisions by local or pro- 
vincial councils. A hill in Skye, at Duntulm, an 
ancient residence of the Chiefs of Sleat, is called 
Cnoc na h-eiric,'^ or the hill of ransom, so called 
because the settlement pf causes was determined — 
save in instances of capital punishment — by the 
administration of fines. Among questions that came 
up for settlement, a frequent one was the arrange- 
ment of boundaries, and the method sometimes 
adopted for preserving a record of these matters 

^ Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis, p. 297. - Pennant, vol. II., p. 304. 


partook of* the quaintness spiced with cruelty 
characteristic of a primitive time. When the 
marches had been fixed, several boys received a 
sound thrashing on the spot, and thus it was pro- 
vided that, if no record was kept on sheepskin, there 
would be those among the rising generation who 
bore the impress of the transaction upon their own 
skins, and thus from whose minds the memory of 
the day's proceedings would never fade away. 

We have already seen that the ancient name 
for the judge under a tribe was " Toshachdeora," 
which signifies derivatively " the chief man of 
law," the name of his office being Toshachcleorachd. 
The existence of the designation in records connected 
with particular districts in comparatively modern 
times affords an interesting testimony to the 
existence of the tribal organisation there in days 
long gone by. We find a reference to this office in 
regions within the Lordship of the Isles, and once 
at least apparently existing side by side with the 
feudal office of bailie. In 1455, John, Earl of E-oss, 
and Lord of the Isles, confirms to Neill McNeill a 
grant made by his father to Torquil McNeill, con- 
stable of the Castie of Swyffin, the father of Neill, 
of the office called Toshachdeora of the lands of 
Knapdale.^ In 1456, the same John, Earl of Ross, 
grants to his esquire Somerled, son of John, son of 
Somerled, for life, and to his eldest son for five 
years after his death, a . davach of his lands of 
Gleneves, with the office commonly called Toshach- 
deora, of all his lands of Lochaber, and he seems to 
have derived from it the name of Toche or Tosach, 
as in 1553 or 1554 the same lands of Gleneves are 
granted to his grandson, here called Donald Mac- 

^ Grig. Par. Scot., vol. II., p. 61, 


Allaster Mic Toche. It is somewhat singular that, 
notwithstanding the maintenance of this Celtic 
office by the Lord of the Isles, a feudal bailiary 
co-existed with it, for in 1447, Alexander, Earl of 
Ross, granted to the Mackintosh a charter of the 
bailiary of the lands of Lochaber, an office which 
became hereditary in that family. In what relation 
the baihe and the Toshachdeora stood to one another; 
whether the former alone exercised an effective 
magistracy, and the latter was only an honorary 
appointment, a sinecure valuable to the holder 
because of the lands connected with it as the sur- 
vival of a past order ; or whether the holder of the 
office acted as an officer under the bailie, we cannot 
exactly say. It is highly probable that, at the time 
of which we Imve these scanty notices, the office was 
fast decaying, and M'as of service only in providing a 
snug provision for favourites of the Island Lords. 

We have seen that, originally, succession to 
the headship of a tribe or clan, was not according 
to the feudal law of primogeniture, but by the 
Celtic law of tanistry. We also find that 
the transmission of lands was not dominated by 
primogeniture, but by the Celtic law of gavel, 
by which a father in disposing of his territories 
divided them equally among his sons. The 
circumstances of these far past times rendered 
such proceedings necessary and even desirable. 
There did not then exist those manifold outlets for 
the industry and energy of sons which render society 
now-a-days less dependent than formerly upon the 
soil. When sons grew to man's estate, and possessed 
families of their own, the only possible provision foi 
them was to settle them upon the land, nor was the 
necessity so much to be deplored at a time when the 


population, as a whole, was sparse, and the power 
and security of a trihe depended so largely uj)on the 
numbers that could be mustered when the day of 
battle came. The gavelling of lands was a distinct 
feature of the social history of the Lords of the Isles. 
Somerled divided the greater part of his immense 
territory in equal portions between his sons, Reginald, 
Dugall, and Angus, while the other sons seem to 
have obtained smaller grants upon the mainland. 
Reginald similarly divided his lands among his sons, 
Donald, Roderick, and Dugall. Donald divided his 
lands between Angus Mor and Alexander, while 
Angus Mor acted similarly to his three sons, Alex- 
ander, Angus (3g, and John Sprangach. The 
tendency towards a gradual attenuation of the 
ancestral domains was arrested in the case of the 
" Good John," for he, being the only legitimate son 
of Angus Og, inherited, not only the lands gavelled 
by Angus Mor to his father, but also those forfeited 
by his uncle, Alexander, Lord of the Isles, along 
with others that accrued through the forfeiture of 
the Comyns, Macdougalls, and others. His estates 
were still further enlarged by his first wife, Amie 
Macruari, bringing over to him the patrimony of the 
branch of the House of Somerled of which she was 
the sole legitimate surviving heir. No sooner has 
this remarkable consolidation of territory taken 
place than the law of gavel again steps in, and a 
new division of the estates of the House of Isla takes 
place. John divides his lands by charter and other- 
wise among his seven sons, thus keeping up, amid 
feudal forms, the old succession to lands by the law 
of gavel. 

As already stated, the Chiefs direct possession 
oi- occupancy of land seems to have originally 


extended little beyond the demesne or manor lands, 
which were attached to his principal residence. 
Thus we find that, of the immense territories 
governed by the Lords of the Isles, a comparatively 
small portion was in their actual occupation. The 
great bulk of its area was held of them in vassalage 
by cadets of their own House and by other Western 
clans. Over the lands held of them in vassalage 
they seem to have maintained sovereign and undis- 
puted sway. Although charters confirming the 
ownership of land seem to have been in existence 
even in the days of Somerled, not until the days 
of Angus Og, one hundred and fifty years later, did 
tlie Lords of the Isles give any real acknowledgment 
of superiority, either to Norway or Scotland. On 
the other hand, they exercised their lordly or kingly 
rights by bestowing lands by verbal gift, as well as 
by feudal charters. Verbal gifts of land were, of 
course, the ancient method of conveyance, and 
accompanied, as these always were, by appropriate 
symbols of investiture, such as sword, helmet, horn, 
or cup of the lord, sometimes spur, bow and arrow, 
the act was regarded as solemnly conferring real and 
inalienable rights. An interesting verbal grant has 
survived, made by Donald, either the progenitor of 
the clan or the hero of Harlaw, in which, sitting upon 
Dundonald, he grants the lands of Kilmahumaig, in 
Kintyre, to Mackay for ever : — 

" Mise Domhnull Mac Dhomhnuill 
Am shuidh air Dun Domhnuill 
Toirt coir do Mhac Aigh air Kilmahumaig 
S gu la brath'ch mar sin." 

From a very early period, from Reginald, the son 
of Somerled, downwards, the Lords of the Isles, if 
they did not receive, granted lands by charter to 


the Church and individuals ; and, at intervals, 
as long as the Lordship lasted. The earlier 
charters, those of the twelfth and thirteenth 
centuries, are couched in mediaeval Latin, and it is 
a peculiar feature of these that they are never 
dated, neither the year of the Lord nor of the 
reigning sovereign given to indicate the period. In 
some Scottish records of the age, such an entry as 
we find in the Book of Innes Charter, Post con- 
cordiam cum Somerledo, helps us to specify a certain 
year ; but the dates of the charters granted by the 
earlier Lords of the Isles can only be a matter of 
conjecture. It is only about the middle of the 
fifteenth century that we find a charter of the Lords 
of the Isles written in the vernacular Scotch of the 
day, showing that the spoken language of the people 
was beginning to supersede Latin for documentary 
purposes. Judging, however, from the verbal 
charter already quoted, as well as from the still 
more interesting charter of 1408, by Donald of 
Harlaw, many of the Macdonald grants, both verbal 
and written, must have been expressed in the 
language of the Gael. On a strip of goatskin the 
Lord of the Isles conveys certain lands on the 
Rhinns of Isla to " Brian Bicare Magaodh," on con- 
dition that he would supply his house annually with 
seven — probably fat — kine. The Magaodhs seem to 
have emigrated to the North of Ireland, having lost 
their property after the fall of the House of Isla, and 
a few years ago this unique charter was found in 
the possession of one Magee, resident in County 
Antrim, a descendant of the original grantee. 
Magee was persuaded that the Register House in 
Edinburgh was, on the whole, more likely to preserve 
the terms of this ancient charter than the peat-bank 


in which, for safe custody, it was deposited until the 
family estates in some good time coming are 
restored. In the Register House, therefore, it is 
now kept, an interesting testimony to the Gaelic 
spirit and sentiment of the great Highland Lord 
who braved the might of Scotland. 

Hugh Macdonald, the Sleat Seanachie, informs us 
that among the functionaries of the Island Lordship 
there was a Recorder, or, as we might term him, a 
Secretary of State of the Isles, an hereditary office 
belonging to the MacDuffies of Colonsay. We do 
not suppose that the keeping of the Island records 
meant that the MacDuffie of the day was of neces- 
sity the actual scribe. The clergy, both of Ross 
and the Isles, sometimes performed the part of 
notaries public for the lords of these regions. Not 
only so, but we find Thomas of Dingwall, sub-deacon 
of the Diocese of Ross, acting as Chamberlain for 
the Earldom in 1468, a fact that need not surj^rise 
us when we remember that the education needed 
for the management of revenues, keeping of accounts, 
and other estate business was almost confined to the 
clergy in those days. The Betons, who were heredi- 
tary physicians to the Family of Isla, sometimes 
acted as clerks, and it was by one of them that the 
Gaelic Charter of 1403 was written. The Records 
of the Isles, ever since lona became the centre of 
learning and religion, have been subject to an 
unhappy fate. The repeated and savage inroads 
of the Danes destroyed what must have undoubtedly 
been a valuable collection of MSS., and the fall of 
the Lordship of the Isles in 1493, with the turmoil 
that ensued for upwards of half a century, resulted 
in the loss of the Records of that principality, 
which would probably, had they survived, have 


shed a flood of light upon certain problems con- 
nected with Highland history which, with our 
present information, seem well-nigh insoluble. 

The dignity of the Lord of the Isles was 
maintained by the mensal lands set apart for him, 
and by the tribute paid him by his vassals. But 
there were also old forms of Celtic taxation which 
the Chief enjoyed, and which, according to certain 
interesting evidence, prevailed within the Lord- 
ship of the Isles, either appropriated by Macdonald 
himself, or conveyed along with lands to his vassals. 
The charter by Alexander, Earl of Ross, in which he 
grants the Lordship of Lochaber to the Mackintosh 
in 1443, sheds an interesting light upon the lights 
and privileges of the Lords of the Isles and those 
who held lands of them by feudal tenure. Taking 
the latter part of the deed in question first, as 
bearing more directly upon the rights of the superior, 
we find the conditions of grant to be servitium, 
Wai'di et Relevii, the service of wardship and relief 
on the part of the vassal. The right of wardship 
was one of the feudal casualties which usually 
belonged either to the King or to the highest rank 
of lay and ecclesiastical magnates. It consisted of 
the guardianship of a fief during the non-age of the 
heir apparent, and this meant nothing less than the 
actual possession of the estates by the tutor during 
his tenure of ofiice. These wardships appear to have 
frequently been sold or granted to the nearest male 
relative, and have proved stumbling blocks to 
modern antiquarians, who have at times in their 
genealogical researches failed to remember the 
operations of this feudal principle. In this manner 
David of Huntingdon enjoyed the Earldom of 
Lennox, Alan Durward that of Athol, and Earl 


Malcolm of Angus that of Caithness, during the 
minority of the heirs. ^ It will be remembered that, 
in the treaty between England Balliol, and John of 
Isla, in 1335, by which various lauds were bestowed 
upon the Lord of the Isles, not the fee simple, but 
the wardship of Lochaber, " until the attainment 
to man's estate of the son and heir of Lord David 
of Strathbolgy, the last Earl of Athole," was bestowed 
upon the Lord of the Isles. ^ It was not until 1343 
that Lochaber, owing to the death of the heir referred 
to, was actually conveyed to John of Isla by charter. 
Now, a little over 200 years later, the Earl of Ross, 
in granting the same lands to the Mackintosh, 
retains the reversion of the wardship, his interest in 
the lands being precisely that enjoyed by his grand- 
father under Edward Balliol. The wardship by 
itself, however, might j)i^ove a barren honour if, as 
was possible, the heir on all occasions succeeded 
when he was of full age ; so there accompanied the 
wardship a fine or tax called " Belief," exacted from 
every heir on succeeding to his patrimony. 

Looking further into the contents of the same 
charter, we fiad enumerated among the perquisites 
of the vassal for the Lordship of Lochaber three 
items which lend some interest to the social history 
of the day, namely, Blude-wetis, herezaldis, mulierum 
merchetis. Each of these in turn demands some 
attention. The word Blude-wetis is a Latinized 
form of the ancient hlodivite, also known among the 
Saxons as Wergild, and among the Gael as Eirig.^ 
It signified the compensation payable by any who 
had committed homicide to the kindred of the 

^ Scotland under her Early Kiugs, vol. II., p. 129. 
" Vide p. 106 of this vol. 

^ Elriy, supposed to be derived liom fear, a mau, and reic, to sell, thus 
meaning a man's value in money or kind. 


deceased. The custom was very ancient, and seems 
to have been known, though divmely disallowed in 
the case of wilful homicide, at the time when the 
Mosaic code was being formulated,^ It was not 
incumbent upon the friends to accept a compensation 
for their kinsman's slaughter, as the stern desire for 
vengeance could not always be set at rest by any 
means save the blood of the offender. When the 
fine was accepted, the amount was determined by 
the rank of the deceased, and the ancient codes 
detailing the Cro or liability of persons according 
to the rank of the slain, have been among the chief 
sources of our knowledge of social grades among 
Teutonic and Celtic nations. The early principle by 
which the immediate kindred of the deceased were 
regarded as alone interested in the blood feud seems 
to have become modified with time. Homicide or 
murder was looked at as a crime against the com- 
munity or state as well as against the individual, and 
part of. the blood money came to be a public due 
paid into the coffers of the King, the ofiicial head of 
the nation. This reference to the custom in the 
Mackintosh charter is the only evidence we have 
hitherto come across as to the existence of the 
hludivite within the Lordship of the Isles, at anyrate 
so late as the middle of the fifteenth century. 

We have already referred to the cai^^e, an impost 
paid by the " native men" for the benefit of living 
under the protection of a conquering Chief This is 
doubtless synonymous with the herezeldis of the 
Charter, for a tax somewhat similar to the calpe, 
entitled " heregild," prevailed in the Saxon districts 
of Scotland certainly as late as the fifteenth and 
sixteenth centuries.'^ It is notable that a curious 

^ Numb. XXXV. 31-3'2. ^ Sir David Lindsay's " Three Estates.'' 


variation of this tax of calpe existed until last 
century in North Uist, said to have been intro- 
duced by a son of Godfrey, lord of that Island. On 
the death of any of the tenants, the best horse in 
the widow's stable was appropriated for the behoof 
of the landlord, and this horse, for what reason 
it is difficult to say, was called the each ursainn} 
Singular to say, while the Celtic law of calpe was 
abolished by the Legislature in the seventeenth 
century, this tax lingered in North Uist for upwards 
of one hundred years thereafter. 

Once more reverting to the Mackintosh Charter 
of 1443, we find a tax which has given rise to a 
good deal of speculation, namely, that designated 
Mulierum Mercheta, and which consisted, at any- 
rate in later days, of a tax payment by a vassal to 
his lord upon the marriage of his daughter. In 
connection with this particular point, and arising out 
of it, we think it desirable to enter briefly into the 
wider question of the marriage laws that existed of 
old in Celtic Scotland. Roman writers, from Julius 
Csesar downwards, have stated, one after the other, 
that a system of community of wives prevailed 
among the ancient Caledonians. There are un- 
doubtedly indications in what has survived of the 
history of pre-Christian ages that the relations 
between the sexes were, as might be expected, looser 
and less regulated among the ancient Celts of Scot- 
land than they have been within the Christian 
period. Sons were regarded as belonging to their 
mothers' rather than to their fathers' tribes, while it 
was through females that the succession to family 
honours, and particulaily to the supreme dynasty of 

^ By a proLusi quite iutelligible to a Gaelic speaker, ursainn may be a 
corruption of " herezild." 


Pictland, was regulated. The succession of Kenneth 
M'Alpin to the throne of united Alban was brought 
about through his being the grandson of Ungusia, 
wife of a Pictish King. Social laws and customs 
long survive the causes that produce them, and this 
succession through a female probably indicates the 
existence of a state of society at a vastly remoter 
time, when the parentage of the mother was the 
only certain guarantee as to a particular line of 

Whetlier the custom known in Gaelic histor}'- as 
" hand -fasting:" was that which suo-gfested to Caesar 
and other Koman writers this somewhat revolting 
idea of " polyandria," or whether hand-fasting may 
be a modification or development of the social con- 
dition described, it is difficult to say. If hand-fasting 
did not amount to a community of wives, it certainly 
meant that a woman could possibly enter into con- 
jugal relations with several living men within the 
limits of a few years. The contract sometimes took 
place in this wise. An agreement was entered into 
between two chiefs, that the heir of the one should 
live for twelve months and a day with the daughter 
of the other. The contract provided further that, in 
the event of the lady, within that period, becoming 
a mother, the marriage became good in law, even 
without the imprimatur of the Church, but if there 
was no appearance of issue, the contract was dis- 
solved, and each was allowed to marry or hand-fast 
with another. The survival of a custom so abhorrent 
to the Church, and inconsistent with feudal law, 
long after the introduction of Christianity and Saxon 
culture, is only to be accounted for by its being 
congenial to the Celtic system. The form of Gaelic 
society was of such a nature that the welfare of the 


community depended greatly upon the birth of heirs 
to carry on the ancestral line, and this fact was 
suflScient to perpetuate for ages a system of men 
taking wives unto themselves on approbation. The 
Highlanders regarded the issue of such marriages as 
perfectly legitimate, and absolutely distinct from 
bastardy. Instances of the issue of hand-fasted 
parents being regarded as legitimate could easily be 
quoted. John Maclean, fourth laird of Ardgour, 
hand-fasted with a daughter of Macian of Ardna- 
murchan, taking this lady, according to the seanachie 
of the clan, " upon the prospect of marriage if she 
pleased him. At the expiration of two years (the 
period of her noviciate), he sent her home to her 
father, but his offspring by her were reputed lawful 
children, because their mother was taken upon a 
prospect of marriage."^ Another case in point was 
when the issue of a hand-fast marriage claimed the 
Earldom of Sutherland in the sixteenth century " as 
one lawfullie descended from his father, Earle John 
the third, because, as he alleged, his mother was 
hand-fasted and fianced to his father." As shewing 
the strength of his claim, Sir Adam Gordon, who 
had married Earl John's heiress, bought it oif by the 
payment of a sum of money. 

The opinion has been advanced that the union 
of John of Isla with Amie Macruari was a hand-fast 
marriage, and this has been adduced as accounting 
for the surrender by Reginald of the sceptre of the 
Isles to Donald, the eldest son of the second 
marriage at Kildonan. We have already given our 
decision, whatever be its worth, against this view.^ 
Only a word or two need be said in supplement. 
The authority of MacVurich and the Dispensation 

1 The Clan Maclean, by a Seanachie, p. 265. - Vide pp. 128-9 



of 1337 are the main grounds set forth m proof of 
the feudal illegitimacy of Amie's sons. The accu- 
racy of the Clanranald Seanachie, when he tells the 
story of these years, is by no means unimpeachable, 
and his deliverances display an amount of historical 
incoherence which is a httle perplexing to the 
reader. He propounds an absurd theory as to the 
parentage of the Princess Margaret ; he says that 
Reginald's abdication in favour of Donald was 
ao-ainst the wishes of the men of the Isles, and 
almost in the same breath makes the statement, 
diametrically opposed, that it was with their consent, 
while he seems entirely ignorant of the Papal Dis- 
pensation which, for whatever reason it was obtained, 
rendered John's marriage absolutely legal, and his 
eldest son his feudal heir.^ Neither priest nor altar 
could make this surer than the authority of the 
Church's earthly head. Clearly MacVurich's views 
upon the subject were created by the fact which he 
could not account for, except by illegitimacy, that 
John's eldest son did not succeed his father. But 
why did the " Good John" get this Papal Dispensa- 
tion ? In the circumstances of his third cousinship 
to his wife, it was absolutely necessary. In the 
fourth Council of the Lateran, the question of the 
forbidden degrees of consanguinity, which had been 
a burning one in the Church for ages, was taken up. 
There was a relaxation of the stringency of former 
times which forbade marriage between sixth 
cousins (!), while now it was restricted to fourth 
cousinship.^ Amie Macruari being John's third 
cousin, the marriage could not possibly take place 
without the high authority of Rome. Then there 
was obtained, not a legitimation of offspring as was 

'■ Rcliquire Ccltiero, \>. l'^9. - Cone. Lat. IV., Act. .'"jO. 


bestowed upon Coinneach a' Bhlair, the Chief of 
Kintail, m 1491, but a licence, or Dispensation, 
which permitted the celebration of a union which 
would otherwise by canon law have been irregular. 
We must now j^ass from this subject of hand- 
fasting to the special aspect of the ancient marriage 
laws suggested by the third item quoted from the 
Mackintosh Charter of 1443. It seems necessary 
to discriminate between the law of Maritagium, 
which meant the right of bestowing the hand of an 
heiress in marriage, and the muUerum mercheta, or 
maiden fee, which was a tax imposed upon a vassal 
on the occasion of his dauixhter's marriaffe.^ This 
maritage, like the rights of Ward and Relief, repre- 
sented at times a considerable pecuniary interest, 
and it was sometimes bestowed in charters by Kings 
and great Crown vassals, and sometimes sold. In 
the sixteenth century we find James Macdonald of 
Dunnyveg and the Earl of Argyle eagerly contend- 
ing for the wardship and marriage of Mary Macleod^ 
the heiress of Dunvegan, which the Queen Regent 
had compelled the Earl of Huntly to relinquish. 
The mu/ierum mercJieta, or marriage tax, paid by a 
vassal to his lord, has been made the basis of purely 
fanciful and long-exploded theories. According to 
Hector Boece, the law of jus primce noctis was 
devised and introduced by a profligate King 
Evenus, who reigned in Scotland shortly before 
the Christian era, and it was in force until the 
time of Malcolm Canmore, who commuted it into 
a fine. Modern writers have striven with great 
ingenuity to prove that it jDrevailed not only in 
Scotland, but also in England, France, and other 
continental countries as a recognised right of the 

' Scotlaiid under lier Early Kings, vol. II., p. 129. 


overlord in the dark ages of feudalism. After all, 
this theory has been founded upon a mistaken 
interpretation of old feudal phraseology, into 
which imaginative writers have read a meaning 
which it never bore.^ As a matter of fact, it 
was from the very earliest times of which we possess 
any record nothing else than a marriage tax, though, 
of course, there is room for differences of opinion 
as to the causes of its origin. According to 
one view it arose in this wise. Only freemen 
who were possessed of property could enter into the 
stipulations necessary for contracting a marriage. 
Among the servile classes marriage could not exist ; 
they were looked upon as cattle or stock, having 
lost their rights of kindred, or duchas, and possessing 
no privileges except the pleasure of their masters. 
But there were also dependent freemen, such as the 
military followers among the Germanic nations, and 
the amasach of Gaelic races, who, having surrendered 
their birthright of land for knightly service under 
their lord or chief, could neither marry nor give in 
marriage without his permission, this permission 
being granted on payment of a sum of money. 
Another view of the origin of this impost is that it 
was paid by a tenant or vassal to the Chief as a 
recompense for the loss of the bride's services when 
she transferred her allegiance to another lord, ser- 
vices to which the Chief, jure sanguinis^ was entitled. 
Both theories are feasible, and while we do not 
presume to decide between them, it is evident that 
in either case the mulierum mercheta was a marriage 
tax, originating among feudal peoples, but, with 
other Teutonic customs, finding its way at an early 
period into the social culture of the Celt. 

^ Scotland under her Early Kings, vol, II., p. 307. 


Before closing this chapter, it will be desirable to 
give a short survey of the dignity, sway, and wealth 
of the family whose story we have tried to tell. As 
we have seen, the chiefs of Clan Cholla became 
independent rulers within Dalriada after Kenneth 
McAlpin had moved eastward to become King of the 
new realm of Scotia, Somerled, after he had vindi- 
cated his rights, assumed like his forbears the title 
King of the Isles, and was to all intents and 
purposes an independent prince. This sense of 
independence he transmitted to a long line of 
successors, and, although at times compelled by the 
force of circumstances to profess allegiance to the 
Scottish Kings, no amount either of force or con- 
ciliation could make them long adhere to a submissive 
attitude. Reginald, son of Somerled, styled himself 
Lord of Argyle and King of the Isles, a two-fold 
designation which seemed to indicate that the 
relation of his dynasty to the Isles was of an 
older and more nidependent character than their 
relation to Argyle, Beginald was also the first 
of the family known as De lie, though the 
Isles must have been the home of the race 
several centuries before his day. This title of Dc 
He was the oldest territorial designation of his 
family, and always stood first and foremost in the 
order of their honours and dignities. It was con- 
fined to the heads of the race, and while cadets of 
Macdonald might designate themselves De Insulis, 
or assume any other title they chose, they never 
presumed to adopt that of De He. It is from this 
fact, mainly, that we conclude the seniority of the 
Clan Donald line over all other branches descended 
from Reginald MacSomerled. Reginald was himself 
De He, as were his ancestors probably for many 


generations, and while other junior families branched 
off, that of De lie, from Donald down to the last 
John, were undoubtedly the heads of the Clan 
Cholla. While they had this territorial title, they 
were also known by others. Both in Ireland and 
Scotland they were frequently designated Rigli 
Innsegall- — Kings of the Isles — and in the beginning 
of the fifteenth century we find McYurich the bard 
addressing his " Brosnacha Catha" to Donald of 
Isla, King of Innse-gall. Both in Ireland and 
Scotland the heads of the Clan Donald were called 
Ardjiath Iniise Gall. On the other hand it is 
undoubtedly the case that the Celtic or patriarchal 
title of the heads of the family, down from the time 
of the first Donald De He, was Macdhomhnuill. 
There is only one signed charter from any of the 
heads of the House of Isla, namely, the Gaelic 
Charter by Donald of Harlaw, in 1408, and in this 
deed he styles himself without any territorial 
addition, simply as Macdonald. The Chiefs of Isla 
were all Macdonald, from the time of Angus Mor 
down to Donald Gallda, and Donald Dubh, who 
were both proclaimed "Macdonald" in their unsuc- 
cessful efforts to revive the fallen principality of the 
Isles. In the arming of the last Lord of the Isles, 
McYurich speaks of John as "Macdonald," the noble 
son of Alexander, the heroic King of Fingall, and a 
poem by a contemporary bard, quoted by the same 
seannachie, begins with the words, " True is my 
praise of Macdonald." In Ireland, also, from very 
early times, the heads of the race were known by 
the same Celtic title. In the Annals of Loch Ce, 
1411, we read of a " great victory of the Macdonalds 
of Alba," and in the Annals of Ulster we find that 
"in the year of Christ 1490, Angus, son of Mac- 


donald of Scotland, who was called the young lord, 
was murdered by his Irish harper Dermod O'Cairbre, 
and at Inverness he was slain." It seems necessary 
to dwell with some emphasis on this fact, inasmuch 
as Gregory, and others who have followed him, longo 
intervallo, have persisted in maintaining that Mac- 
donald is a comparatively modern surname adopted 
by the Barons of Sleat and the Lords of Dunnyveg, 
from one or more noted chiefs who bore the name of 

We find in those heraldic emblems, which can 
with certainty be regarded as belonging to the 
Lords of the Isles, evidence of their premier 
position among the western clans of Scotland. 
Amid all the variations which the taste and fancy 
of later ages have introduced into the Macdonald 
arms, there are two features that stand out pro- 
minently as belonging unquestionably to the Family 
of Isla, and these are the galley and the eagle. We 
find the galley as far back as the time of Reginald 
MacSomerled, and the galley with an eagle against 
the mast we find in the seal of John, last Lord of 
the Isles, after he was forfeited in the Earldom of 
Ross in 1476. The galley is intended to convey the 
idea of the sovereignty of these Celtic Lords over 
the western seas, and the eagle symbolizes, under 
another form, the royal superiority of the Macdonald 
Chiefs. No doubt other western clans have the 
galley in their armorial bearings, but these in every 
case have borrowed the emblem from the arms of 
the house of which in previous ages they had been 
feudatories and vassals. 

All the information we can obtain suggests the 
possession of great power and wealth by these 
Island Lords. Somerled seems to have had the 


command of immense maritime resources, for from 
the time that he conquered Godred down to his 
last struggle with the Scottish Crown the number 
of galleys that accompanied him to sea varied from 
60 to 160. Angus Og led 10,000 Highlanders to 
the field of Bannockburn, and Donald commanded 
no less a force at the battle of Harlaw. From the 
large numbers which at various times these Lords of 
the Isles were able to assemble on the day of battle, 
we conclude that the population of the Western 
Highlands must have been larger than is usually 
supj)osed. Nothing of the nature of a standing 
army seems to have existed beyond the luclid tiglie, 
body guard, or garrison, who kept ward on Isle 
Finlaggan, where the Macdonald Lords held court. 
The remains of their dwellings are still to be seen, 
" The luclid tiglie attended the chief at home and 
abroad. They were well trained in managing the 
sword and target, in wrestling, swimming, jumping, 
dancing, shooting with bows and arrows, and were 
stout seamen."^ The luclid tiglie were composed of 
the strongest and most active young men in the best 
families in the Isles, and were called Ceatharnaich, 
from their great strength and feats of daring. They 
were known in the Lowlands, where their forays 
w^ere rich and frequent, as " Kernes" or " Caterans." 
The military strength of the lordship was not, how- 
ever, to be measured by the luclid tiglie. The 
vassals of the Isles, not only those of the same blood 
and lineage, but others who held lands of the House 
of Isla by feudal tenure, were bound to provide a 
certain number of men when the fiery cross went 
round. While the Stewart Kings, with all the 
encouragement they gave to the cultivation of 

1 Martin, p. 103. 


archery, were never able to bring a band of efficient 
bowmen to the field, the Islesmen were expert 
archers, and when fighting in the Eoyal army were 
always placed in a position in which their superi- 
ority in this respect would have the best effect. 
Remains of the butts of Imiriconart, in Isla, where 
the archers of Maedonald practised their art, sur- 
vived as late as the time of Pennant. 

While the Lords of the Isles thus encouraged 
the cultivation of warlike courage and skill, we are 
not to suppose that the arts of peace were neglected 
according to the standards of their day. The num- 
bers, extent, and solidity of the castles, fortifications, 
and religious houses, whose ruins are scattered over 
the Western Highlands and Islands, show that 
encouragement of a distinct kind must have been 
given to the crafts of masonry, carpentry, and others, 
while they at the same time suggest the expenditure 
of great wealth. No doubt some of this wealth 
would have been derived from the tribute paid by 
the vassals, which must have amounted to a con- 
siderable sum, measured by the conditions of 
these olden times. There are also other ways 
of accounting for the well-filled coffers of the 
Maedonald Chiefs. They were acquainted, through 
their seafaring habits, with the navigation of 
foreign seas, and made many descents upon the 
maritime countries of Western Europe, carrying 
with them to the Islands golden vases, silks, armour, 
money, &c. An art which the seafaring habits of 
the Kings of Innse-Gall must have greatly promoted 
was that of shipbuilding. In this particular craft, 
doubtless, the Norwegians would have promoted their 
instruction, but the Western Gaels must very early 
have become skilled in an art so necessary in an 


insular region like the Lordship of the Isles. It is also 
extremely probable that timber grew more plenti- 
fully in the Hebrides then than in modern times, a 
supposition which is supported by the numerous 
roots of trees which now and then are exposed to 
view in the extensive bog-lands of Lewis and Uist. 
In 1249, Hugh de Chatillon, one of the richest and 
most powerful of French barons, consented to accom- 
pany Louis IX. of France to the crusades, and the 
ship that was to carry him was built in the High- 
lands, a fact to be seriously considered by those who 
would fasten the stigma of barbarity upon the 
Scottish Gael of bygone ages. 

Various other jDroofs of the wealth of these Island 
Lords might be adduced, but one significant proof 
will suffice. Reginald MacSoraerled did in 1196 
purchase the whole of Caithness from William the 
Lion, an exception being made of the yearly revenue 
due to the Sovereign, which the Lord of the Isles 
did not acquire.^ That the chronicler does not, in 
recording this transaction, confuse Heginald of the 
Isles with him of the same name who became King 
of Man, is clear, from the fact that the Lords of the 
Isles for many ages thereafter continued to possess 
lands in Caithness, for we find both Donald of 
Harlaw and John, last Earl of Hoss, giving charters 
of land in that county during the fifteenth century.^ 

A certain amount of trade must have been 
encouraged by the Lords of the Isles, and frequent 
intercourse with Ireland on the one hand, and 
Norway on the other, led to the exchange of com- 
modities which were useful to both. An official 

^ Venit ergo Reginaldus tilius Souierlett rex de Mannia et Iiisularum ad 
regem Scotitc et emit ab eo Cathauesiam. — Chron. of Man, by Johustoue, 
p. 58. 

^ Vide Appendix. 


mentioned by Hugh Macdonald as exercising an 
important function under the Lords of the Isles was 
the Chief of Macfingon, who looked after the adjust- 
ment of weights and measures, a fact which shows, not 
only that encouragement was given to trading, but 
also that they recognised the abomination of a false 
balance and the righteousness that exalteth a people. 
The stately and even royal Court kept by these 
potentates involved the distribution of wealth 
around them whether they held their court in Isla, 
Ardtornish, or Dingwall, and it is on record that 
after the Earldom of Ross was forfeited and Ding- 
wall Castle had to be abandoned, that burgh for a 
long time languished and decayed through the 
withdrawal of the business which the presence of 
the Island Chiefs and their numerous retainers 
created. The trade of the Islands would probably 
consist of the staple commodities produced in those 
regions, and by means of which the rents and tiends 
would to some extent have been paid, such as wool, 
cloth, flax, linen, fish, butter, eggs, and corn. It is 
interesting to note that, when the Earl of Douglas 
visited the Earl of Ross at Knapdale in 1453, the 
former brought presents of wine, silken cloths, and 
silver, while the Highland Chief in return gave 
mantles and Highland plaids.^ We find in some of 
the older accounts that the spinning of wool and 
flax and the manufacture of cloth were industries 
practised in the Hebrides from a very remote period. 
The cultivation of the arts and sciences has with 
every appearance of probability been ascribed to the 
influence of the Gaehc clergy who were established 
over the Western Isles prior to the arrival of the 

i The Book of Douglas, vol. L, pp. 485-86. Scott's History of Scotland, 
vol. I., p. 307. 


Norwegians, as well as to numbers of Britons flying 
thither from the ravages of the Saxons, who bore 
with them the remains of Roman culture and of the 
arts of life. At any rate, it is a fact that an 
Icelandic Skald, describing an elegant dress for a 
hero of the seventh century, says — " Enn Sudreyskar 
spunnu," which is, being interpreted, " Sudreyans 
spun the web."^ This manufacture of cloth from 
home-grown wool and flax was an art universally 
cultivated and always preserved under the sway of 
the Lords of the Isles, It is evident that whatever 
trade existed in the Isles and with foreign countries 
must have been conducted by the medium of barter 
or exchange. Money as an instrument of commerce 
must hav^e been scarce in these ages, down from the 
time of Angus Mor, " the generous dispenser of 
rings," to his latest successor in the sovereignty of 
the Isles. ^ 

Considering the character of the ages in which 
they flourished, it is not difficult to see that the 
influence of the Lords of the Isles was exercised for 
the good of the lands which owned their sway, and 
the terrible state of anarchy and darkness which for 
generations supervened the fall of their Lordship is 
alone sufficient to prove the fact. To the Kings 
and State of Scotland they were turbulent and 
dangerous, because they never forgot the ancient 
traditions of independence, but to their own vassals 
and subjects they were kindly, generous, and 
just, abounding in hospitality, and profuse in 
charitable deeds. Had this not been the case, 
it is hardly possible to conceive that the High- 

^ Lodbrokar Quida (Johnstone's Edition, 1782), p. 103, Macpherson's 
Geographical Collections. 

^ Haco's Expedition (Johnstone's Edition, 1782), p. 57. 


landers should have rallied to so many forlorn 
hopes to re-establish the fallen dynasty. In their 
proud independence, they were to the Highland 
people the representatives of what was best in 
Gaelic history, who never owned a superior, either 
Celt or Saxon. Only the king of terrors himself 
could lay Macdonald low ; such was the feeling of 
the devoted subject who engraved the brief but 
expressive legend on his tomb, Macdonald fato 




The Celtic Church. — Its Character. — Its Decay. — Rise of Latin 
Church. — Diocese of Isles. — Somerled in Man. — S. Machutus. 
— Saddell. — Its Foundation and Endowment. — Tayinloan. — 
Abbey of lona Built and Religous Orders Established by 
Reginald. — Connection with Paisley. — The Good John and his 
Wife as Church Patrons. — Oransay Priory. — Trinity Chapel, 
Carinish. — Grimsay Oratory. — Sons of John of Tsla and the 
Chiirch. — Howmore.— Earls of Ross. — Education. — Art. 

The connection of the Lords of the Isles with the 
Church of their time, illustrated as it was by 
many gifts and endowments in lands, church 
buildings, and other effects, was sufficiently notable 
to call for special treatment in a chapter devoted 
to itself It was in the eleventh century, that 
which witnessed the fallen fortunes of the Clan 
Cholla at the lowest ebb, that the Celtic Church 
began to be suj)planted by the Latin form of 
Christianity which had been introduced into Scot- 
land mainly through the agency of Margaret, the 
saintly Queen of Malcolm Canmore. The Celtic 
Church in Scotland, as an organised institution, 
partook largely of the character of the social 
system in the midst of which it was situated. In 
type it was monastic, and in the scope of its 
operation tribal, that is to say, on the Celtic 
inhabitants of Scotland being Christianised, the 
Church formed a part of the social system of the 
Tuath or tribe, under whose protection it was 


planted. The Church and the poUty of the Celt 
mutually acted and reacted. The Church influenced 
and promoted the progress of the community in 
civilisation and morality. It elevated the relation- 
ship between the sexes, regulating and imparting a 
sacred significance to marriage, with the result that, 
instead of the old system of descent in Caledonia 
through a female, a system arising out of a primitive 
state of society and a loose relation between the 
sexes, Christianity placed the father at the head of 
the family, and created the system of hereditary 
descent. As the Church in this way raised the tone 
of Celtic society, the latter in its turn imparted a 
colouring and tendency to ecclesiastical life. Both 
in Scotland and Ireland the Church system was 
grafted on the patriarchal form of society, and near- 
ness of blood to the founder of the tribe to a large 
extent regulated succession to ecclesiastical dignities 
and possessions. This, of course, might be looked 
for when the Church was under the protection of 
the tribe, and owed to the liberality of its head 
all its secular possessions, he consequently retaining 
in his own hands a large share of the Church's 
patronage. We often find that, although originally 
the Abbots were distinct from the Clan, in the 
course of time the lay and ecclesiastical lines are 
merged into one, and finally the holder of the 
Abbatial lands is found to be a lay official. The 
tribe lands, as already seen, Avere first occupied in 
common, and out of the Orba or inheritance lands of 
the Ardfiatli and nobles, termon lands were set 
apart for the maintenance of the Church. It thus 
came about that the system of hereditary possession 
to the headship of a tribe was impressed upon the 
organisation of the Church. As a matter of fact, 
we find this hereditary principle extending far into 


the history of the mediaeval or Boman Church in the 
Lay Abbots of Apercrosaii or Applecross, who for 
ages were heads of the powerful Celtic monastery 
that held the greater part of the North Oirthir, and 
of whom were the sept of the MacTaggarts. This 
encroachment of the secular element upon the life 
of the Cliurch largely contributed to its decay, and 
the introduction of a secular order of clergy in the 
seventh and eighth centuries, combined with the 
destruction of the monasteries by Danish invasions, 
still further hastened its downfall. It was, however, 
the policy of Queen Margaret and her sons, but par- 
ticularly of David I., that had the largest share in 
modifying the outward form of the Christian Church 
in Scotland. The Celtic Church had, as stated, been 
monastic and missionary. From centres where its 
institutions had been planted it worked for the 
evangelisation of the people without establishing 
itself as a territorial system covering the whole land. 
Its jurisdiction was thus confined to its religious 
houses, and the functions of its Bishops did not 
extend beyond the monasteries. As distinguished 
from this, David I. introduced a parochial system, 
the foundation of that which still prevails in Scot- 
land, and he established a diocesan episcopacy over 
the parochial clergy, each diocese embracing a 
large number of parishes. He also introduced the 
monastic orders of the Boman Church, hardly if at 
all known in this country before his day. 

The Celtic Church, with its Culdees, the clerical 
residue of the old order, soon fell into disrepute 
before the more novel, comprehensive and aggressive 
system of the Latin Church. The change from the 
one system to the other was marked by a great 
advance in church architecture, the transition being 
more advanced in this respect than in any other. 


The primitive church architecture of St Columba's 
day, consisting of church or oratory and the 
detached cells or huts of the brotherhood, all 
made of wattles, had long ago been exchanged 
for stone buildings. Of these older Celtic stone 
remains, small rectangular church and beehive- 
shaped cells, such as are to be seen in Eilean Naomh, 
few traces are to be found in Scotland ; but there is 
enough to shew the tremendous stride that M'as 
made within a limited period to the church archi- 
tecture of mediseval times. The transition to the 
cruciform plan, as well as from the round to the 
pointed arch, and afterwards from the simple Gothic 
to the late ornate style, and from that afterwards to 
the perpendicular, were certainly remarkable enough. 
Yet in other details the change was, if possible, still 
greater and more sudden. Especially is this to be 
noted in the quality and style of the masonry. The 
old Celtic churches, even the best of them, were built 
of rough field stones, occasionally touched with a 
hammer, and cemented with shell mortar, apparently 
jDOured hot among the stones, this being also the 
style adopted in the older castles of the Highland 
nobility. It may have been a method rude and 
ungraceful from an aesthetic point of view, but it 
certainly was calculated to withstand the ravages of 
time and the warfare of the elements. Very 
different was the style of masonry applied to the 
new and fairer type of Gothic buildings that came 
into vogue in the twelfth century in Scotland. It 
consisted in the use of quarried freestone, regularly 
hewn and dressed, and laid in regular courses with 
well-prepared mortar, resulting in those beautiful 

remains, alas ! too rare, which testify to the artistic 



genius, as well as technical capacity, of the genera- 
tions that gave them birth. 

Having thus very briefly sketched the change 
from the Celtic to the Latin form of Christianity in 
Scotland, it will be desirable to give a brief account, 
from the ecclesiastical point of view, of the region in 
which the influence of the Island Lords was mainly 
exercised. The territories in which these magnates 
of Innse-Gall, from Somerled downwards, exercised 
authority for a longer or shorter period, lay in 
three dioceses — the Isles, Lismore, and Ross. The 
ecclesiastical history of the first of these districts, 
like its secular history, abounds in interesting 
and eventful episodes,' owing, in the first place, 
to its being the scene of the introduction of 
Christianity into Scotland by Columba and his 
followers, and, in the second place, to their 
being so much exposed to the devastating incur- 
sions of Scandinavian pirates. While the Diocese 
of the Isles was the last of all the Scottish 
Sees to arrive at full Cathedral status — this only 
having taken place in 1506 — its history as an abbey 
goes back to a remoter period than any of the other 
twelve. The eighth and ninth centuries witnessed 
the decay of the influence exercised by the religious 
establishment of lona over the Christian Churches 
of the mainland of Alban. In the first place, its 
resistance to the ordinances of the Roman Church as 
regards the burning questions of Easter and the 
tonsure led the Churches of Pictland to throw off 
the authority of that which was the mother of them 
all. Further, the awful peril to which lona and its 
community were exposed from the attacks of the 
savage Danes, particularly in the ninth century, 
rendered it difficult to secure the services of 


Churchmen who would occupy a post which, if it 
was one of honour, was also one of danger. The 
causes that led to the decay of the authority of 
lona over the Churches of Alban were likewise 
instrumental in producing similar results in its 
relation to the Irish monasteries. About the begin- 
ning of the ninth century the monastery of Kel-ls 
was built ; the relics of St Columba were deposited 
there, and the primacy of the Irish rehgious houses, 
which had from the days of the Saint belonged to 
the Isle of his affections, now passed away from it 
for ever. Although various attempts were made to 
restore something of its former glory by bringing 
back the relics of its Saint, lona never during the 
existence of the Celtic Church, which it had fostered 
into life and usefulness, recovered its former power 
and sway. When Kenneth McAlpin resolved to 
re-establish the Columban Church in Southern 
Pictdom, he built a church at Dunkeld, which he 
made the annoid or mother church over the 
Columbans in Scotland. From that period the 
Western Isles continued largely under Scandinavian 
sway, now under the Kingdom of DubHn, now under 
the Earls of Orkney, though once at least they 
relapsed into the hands of Celtic rulers. In 1072 
the Isles passed for little less than a generation 
into the hands of Malcolm Canmore. The ecclesi- 
astical position of lona and the Isles during these 
troubled centuries is a little difficult to define. 
According to some accounts, a bishopric of the 
Isles — apart from Man — was founded in 838 a.d., 
but this is entirely out of keeping with the facts 
that the stream of history has borne down to our 
day.^ It may, however, be gathered that though 

^ Matthew Parit-. 


the Norsemen and their Kings in Man and the Isles 
are supposed to have adopted Christianity at the 
beginning of the eleventh century, the Church of 
lona seems to have benefitted little or nothing by 
their patronage, for the monastery built of stone in 
818, and attacked and partially demolished by the 
Danes in 986, seems to have remained in a ruined 
state until 1074, w^hen it was restored, rebuilt, and 
furnished w^ith monks and an endovv^ment by Queen 
Margaret, the v^ife of Malcolm Canmore. During a 
great part of that time it had hardly any connection 
v^ith Scottish Christianity, and had frequently to 
fall back for support upon the Irish monasteries. 
About 1098, the Western Isles fell into the hands 
of Macriuis Barefoot, when Sodor and Man were 
united into one diocese, and made suffragan to 
Drontheim in Norway. Thus for the first time did 
lona and the Isles, hitherto monastic in their church 
government, with the Abbot at the head of the 
ecclesiastical district, become merged in the system 
of Diocesan episcopacy soon to dominate the religious 
life of the country. For nearly three hundred years 
after this, lona and the Isles were ecclesiastically 
connected with Man ; but from the middle of the 
twelfth century their history was bound up with the 
Lords of the Isles, all of whom proved munificent 
patrons of the Church within their own domains. 
In 1154, the Southern Isles were wrested by Som- 
erled from the grasj) of Godred of Man, and it is 
notable that while he and his successors strenuously 
resisted the inroads of Scottish feudalism, their 
attitude towards the mediaeval Church, which 
embodied the religious aspect of the same national 
movement, was widely difierent. From the very 
beginning they adopted the policy of the Scottish 


Kings, which was to encourage and foster within 
their own domains the Latin form of Christianity, 
which was rapidly absorbing and supplanting the 
old Celtic Church. 

Somerled, the founder of the Family of the Isles 
within historical times, becomes, before the close of 
his stormy career, a generous patron and benefactor 
of the Church. A semi-fabulous incident connected 
with one of his campaigns in Man has been reserved 
for this portion of our work, as it has, not without 
reason, been cited as suggesting a cause for, or 
indicating a tendency towards, the special form of 
Christian liberality characteristic of his age. The 
monks of Rushin who chronicled Somerled's doings 
in the Isle of Man tell us that after he had finally 
crushed his brother-in-law, Godred, in 1157, and 
expelled him thence to Norway, he wasted the 
island and retired with his troops to the town of 
Eamsa. The Church of St Manghold, known of 
old as Machutus, stands three miles from the 
modern town of Ramsey. This was the scene 
of the incident referred to in the life of the great 
Chief of Clan Cholla, which has received detailed 
narration combined with much mystic embellish- 
ment. Tlie story, which is, of course, couched in 
Monkish Latin, is as follows : — At the same time 
when Somerled was in Man, in the Port called 
Ramse, it was told his army how the Church of 
St Machutus was crammed full with great store 
of money, for this place, by reason of the reverence 
paid to the most holy confessor Machutus, was a 
safe place of refuge for those who fled from any 
kind of danger. But a certain leader, more power- 
ful than the rest, named Gilcolm, made suggestions 
to Somerled about the foresaid money, and declared 


that it would in no wise prejudice the peace of S. 
Machutus to carry off the animals grazing outside 
the enclosure of the cemetery to supply the army 
with food. But Somerled began with a refusal, 
saying he could by no means allow the peace of 
S. Machutus to be violated. On the other hand, 
Gilcolm insisted with urgent entreaties, praying 
that he and his son might be allowed to go to 
the place, and the guilt should be altogether on 
himself Somerled, though unwilling, gave per- 
mission, and said — " Let the matter be between 
thee and S. Machutus, I and my army are innocent; 
we want no share of your booty." Upon this 
Gilcolm rejoiced ; went off to his people, and 
summoning three sons and all his dependents, 
commanded them to be ready that night so that 
at the first break of dawn they might be on the 
watch to make a rush on S. Machutus' Church, two 
miles distant. Meanwhile a rumour reached the 
church of the enemy's approach, which raised such 
universal fear that many fled from the church 
and hid themselves in the caves of the rocks. 
The rest, with incessant cries, continued all night 
calling upon God for pardon through the mercies of 
S. Machutus. The weaker sex, with dishevelled 
hair, ran wailing to and fro around the walls of the 
church, shouting with loud cries, " Where art thou 
now, Machutus ? Where are thy miracles once 
■wrought in this place ? Wilt thou forsake us now 
for our sins ? If not for our sakes, for the honour of 
thy name, help us in this our misfortune." Moved 
by their prayers, as we believe, S. Machutus, having 
comj)assion on their miseries, rescued them from 
immediate danger, and condemned their enemy to a 
terrible death ; for as soon as the aforesaid Gilcolm 


had laid him down in his tent to sleep, S. Machutus 
appeared to him, rohed in a white raiment and a 
pastoral staff in his hand. Standing before his bed, 
the saint addressed him in these words, " What is it, 
Gilcolm, between thee and me ? In what way have 
I done evil to thee or thine that thou art now j^lan- 
ning to rob my shrine ?" To this Gilcolm replied, 
" Who art thou ?" Said the saint, " I am Machutus, 
the servant of Christ, whose church thou art pur- 
posing to contaminate, but this thou shalt not 
accomplish." Having said this, he raised up the 
staff (baculum), which he held in his hand, and 
pierced him to the heart. The wretched man gave 
a dreadful shriek which startled everybody in their 
tents, and at another thrust from the saint he 
shrieked again, and again at a third thrust. Then, 
indeed, his son and all his army, disturbed by his 
cries, ran to him to know what had happened. But 
he, hardly able to speak, said with a groan, 
" S. Machute has been here, and has thrice stabbed 
me with his staff. But haste, speed to his church, 
and bring hither his staff and the priests and clerks, 
that they may intercede for me with S. Machute, if 
peradventure he will be lenient to me for the things 
I plotted against him." These injunctions were 
quickly obeyed, and the clerics were entreated by 
his followers, who told them all that had happened, 
to bring with them the saint's staff, and come and 
visit their lord, who now appeared to be in extremes. 
Hearing these things, the priests and the rest of 
the multitude rejoiced with a great joy, and sent 
off certain of the clergy with the staff, one of whom, 
when they reached his presence, and saw that he 
was now almost hfeless, for he had lost his speech a 
short time before, uttered this curse : — " May 
S. Machute, who has begun to punish thee, no 


cease till he has brouj^ht thee to destruction, so 
that others seeing and hearing (these things) may 
learn to show more reverence for holy places." 
After speaking these words, the clergy returned 
home, and after their departure a huge swarm of 
flies (great and loathsome) began to buzz about his 
face and mouth, that neither he nor his servants 
could drive them away — thus in the most intense 
agony he died. At his death such terror seized 
Somerled and his army that they set sail from that 
port, and in extreme haste departed to their own 

Such is the semi-mythical account of an incident 
which, with little doubt, rests upon a basis of 
genuine history. The soul of the Celtic warrior 
seems to have been deeply impressed by the 
threatened sacrilege and the retribution that ensued, 
and whatever may have been the true links in the 
chain of historical events, the conjecture is by no 
means improbable that Somerled's intention to found 
and endow a church may have sprung from, or at 
any rate would have been greatly strengthened by, 
his experiences at the shrine of Saint Machutus. 
It is undoubtedly the case that, from Somer- 
led's time down to the fall of the Lordship of 
the Isles, the Church in Scotland had no more 
generous friends or patrons than the heads of the 
House of Isla. This patronage of the Church by 
the Lords of the Isles was not exercised, as we 
might expect, for the maintenance of what survived, 
and was ready to perish, of the old Celtic establish- 
ments, but rather to promote, as has already been 
remarked, the more aggressive order of Latin 
Christianity. In 1164, shortly before his death, 
we find the influence of Somerled exercised in con- 

1 Chronicle of Man a.d. 1158, but more correctly 1156. 


nection with the monastery of lona, by that time in 
a state of decay. The last of the Abbots of lona of 
whom any record survives died in the last year of 
the eleventh century, and for over fifty years there- 
after all contemporary records are dumb regarding 
this a,ncient nursery of Scottish Christianity.^ This 
is to be accounted for, not merely by the decay of 
the Culdee Church, but to the fact that the 
Norwegian Kings of the Isles, though professing 
Christianity, do not appear to have been nursing 
fathers of the Church, at anyrate within the Scottish 
portion of their domains. It was after Somerled 
had become virtually King of the Sudoreys that we 
find a movement taking place for the reorganisation 
of this community of lona. We find that in 1164 
the chiefs of the Family of lona, acting on the 
advice of Somerled and the men of Argyle and the 
Isles, invited Flaithbertach O'Brolchan, Abbot of 
Derry, to become Abbot of lona,^ but for some 
unrecorded reason their proposal was vetoed by the 
King of Ireland and the chiefs of the Cinel Eoghain. 
The authorities who have recorded this episode 
throw an interesting light upon the constitution of 
the establishment of Icolumkill during this period 
of decay. There was the " Sacartmor," or great 
priest ; the " Ferleighinn," or lector ; the " Dis- 
eartach," or head of the Disert, for the reception of 
pilgrims and the head of the Cele De, or Culdees. 
The efforts to revive the Celtic establishment in 
lona failed as it did elsewhere, and the system soon 
gave way to the newer and more energetic orders of 
the Church of Eonie, and this reconstruction of 
Church life, at anyrate as regards its outward form 
and material support, was to owe its existence in 

1 Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. II., p. 413. 
- Annals of Ulster. Chronicle of the Picts and Scots. 


St Columba's Isle to the patronage of the Clan 

The oldest religious foundation connected with 
the Family of the Isles — at anyrate within the 
historical period — -is the Abbey of Saddell, and a 
brief sketch of its origin and earl^-^ history must be 
given before we pass on to the more widely known 
and still beautiful Church of St Mary's in Icolumkill. 
Tradition is not unanimous as to whether Saddell 
Monastery was founded by Somerled or his son 
Reginald, while Hugh Macdonald, the Seanachie 
of Sleat, ascribes its origin to Donald, the son of 
Reginald and the founder of the Clan, It is highly 
probable that so extensive a building would have 
been the work of several generations of the Lords 
of the Isles, and that while Somerled founded and 
endowed it and its erection was begun in his life- 
time, his son and grandson enriched it with further 
gifts, and it was completed only in Donald's time. 
That it owes its original foundation to Somerled 
is confirmed by the almost universal tradition that 
his remains were interred within the Abbey,^ while 

^ " Sandallum, Saundle ; al. Sandalium, Saundalium de Stagdalo, 
Saundell, Sandal, Sandael, Sanadale, Sadael, Sadale, Saldal, Sagadal, 
Sadagal, Sagadul, de Sagada, Sagadach de Ulconia v. de Ulcoue, v. de 
Vasconia, Sagadoch. 

" Sandallium in Cathj^ra et diocesi Dunkeldensi (pup. Cathauensi) in 
Scotia situm, Somerledus (Soirle Mackilvrid, alias Sourle MacLerdj^, filius 
Gilbride) insularum Scoticarum dominus, quern Marianus Brockie 'piratam et 
latronem famosissimum ' vocat, a, 1164 devictus et interfectus, condere 
coepisse et Reginaldus filius circa annum 1220 absolvisse leguntur 
(A.R.E.E.M.S.C.N.L.La) 1219 ; v. 1216, M.Pa, 1163 ; Bii-ch L inter a. 1160 et 
1200 ; Brockie, 1256 ; v. I., I.C., Bo Ve, St. Matrem Russinium (de linea 
clara Vallis) extitisse arbitramur, aliis Furnessium vel Mellifontem exhibenti- 
bus ; Demsterus Thomae Abbatis mentionem facit, a. 1257 florentis, quem 'ita 
se gessisse asserit, ut neque doctiorem neque moribus sancliorem aetas ilia 
tulerit.' " (Maur 1216, X. 1. long VIII. 17. N. 20, ej Origg, Donschon ; 
Arnott, D. Mariana Brockie ib. Theiner Hib., 608. Chalmers I., 683. 
Spottiswood ap Keith, 421. Demster II., 592. Fordun II., 538.) Extract, 
page 221, No. DLXXXL, " Originum Cistercieusium," Tomus I. — P. Leopold 



one authority places the completion of the building 
as late as 1256 — after the death of Donald de He 
and the succession of his son Angus Mor. The 
Church of Saddell was cruciform in structure, with 
the orientation and pointed arch characteristic of 
Gothic buildings ; but, except in the windows, we 
miss the dressed sandstone which marked the full 
advance from the Celtic to the Gothic age. The 


Monastery lies in an exact position towards the 
four cardinal points. Its dimensions were at one 
time imj^osing, though little now survives beyond 
a mass of featureless confusion. Part of the gable 
of the transept and the aperture for a window alone 
survive ; but vandalism here, as elsewhere, has done 
its unhallowed work, and tlie finished stonework 


of the window has almost all been removed. The 
cruciform minster was 136 feet long from east to 
M^est, by 24 feet broad, while the transepts from 
north to south measured 78 feet by 24. The 
conventual buildings were on the south ; the 
dormitory was 58 feet long, and there are traces 
of the study room. The cloister girth was 58 feet 
square. Within the arched recess in the south 
wall of the choir, Somerled's tomb is pointed out. 
The sculpture represents him as wearing a high 
pointed head-piece, a tippet of mail hanging over 
the neck and shoulders, and the body clad down 
to the knees with a skirt or jupon scored with lines 
to represent the folds. The right hand is raised 
up to the shoulder, while the left clasps a two- 
handed sword. The inscription on the corner of 
the slab has been worn away by the elements, and 
has for ages been indecipherable. 

There are few more charming spots anywhere 
than the delightful glen where, 700 years ago, 
this venerable house of prayer was reared to the 
glory of God. From the beautiful beach of whitest 
sand, close to which the residence of the genial laird 
of GlensaddelP stands, the stranger wends his way 
through an avenue of immemorial trees, and when 
at last the eye rests upon the scant remains of what 
was once a structure of no small magnitude, one's 
piety glows with quite as much warmth (if with 
less sonorous expression) as did that of the learned 
Doctor who felt so much overcome among the ruins 
of lona. Down the glen runs Allt nam Manach, or 

^ J. Macleod, Esq. of Kintarbert and Saddell, to whose courtesy and 
kindness the authors were much indebted during a flying visit to the historic 
region, Mr Macleod, who is an authority on the antiquities of Argyllshire, 
has recently restored and made habitable the ancient castle, in which Angus 
Og entertained the Bruce. 


the monks' burn, and on the further bank there is a 
well, scooped out of a rectangular block of dressed 
freestone, almost concealed by long grass and 
coronals of fern, and bearing a Latin cross carved 
on its front. Into this basin the crystal water, 
deliciously cool even in midsummer, continually 
trickles from the rock, as it did in those far off 
days when the matins and vespers of the holy 
men rose to the morning and evening sky. 

The Abbey of Saddell, which was in the Diocese 
of Dunkeld, was founded for monks of the Cistercian 
or Bernardino order, instituted in 1098 by Robert, 
Abbot of Molesne, in the Diocese of Langres, in 
Burgundy. Their designation of Cistercian origin- 
ated where their chief house and first monastery 
were situated, and the alternative title, Bernardines, 
was in honour of Bernard, a Burgundian, who was 
sometime afterwards elected Abbot of Clairvaux. 
The brethren of the Cistercian order wore a black 
cowl and scapular, the rest of their dress being 
white, and from this came their common designation 
of white or gray friars to distinguish them from the 
Benedictines, who were clad altogether in black. 
This institution was well endowed by Reginald, 
who gave the monks the lands of Glen Saddell 
and the 12 marks of Baltebean, in the lordship of 
Kin tyre, and the 20 merklands of Cesken, in the 
Isle of Arran. Dempster^ refers to Thomas, an 
abbot of this monastery who flourished in 1257, as 
one who was unsurpassed in his age for piety and 
learning, and it was he, in all probability, who, six 
years later (1263), the year of Haco's famous 
expedition, placed the monastery of Greyfriars 
under the protection of the Norwegian King, a 

1 Vol. II., p. 692. 

462 1:he clan donald. 

protection which he received from hira in writing.^ 
The same authority informs us that this Thomas 
Sandahus wrote several books, which were kept in 
the hbrary of St Andrews, but these, if they 
existed, have long since disappeared.^ Friar Simon, 
Haco's chaplain, who died at Gigha during the same 
expedition, was carried to Kintyre, and received 
sepulture within the church of the Grey friars.^ 
Tayinloan, in the parish of Killean, is said to have 
been a cell or chapel of Saddell, but there are no 
traces whatever in the spot so called of the existence 
of any ecclesiastical building, and it is almost certain 
that the reference to Tayinloan is, in this connection, 
a mistake. Saddell and Killean were originally one 
parish, and the old Church of St John's (Killean), 
the remains of which are in the cemetery at Largie, 
must have been really the cell of Saddell referred to, 
though, owing to its proximity to Tayinloan, it has 
gone under that name. This view, we think, is 
conclusive, when it is borne in mind that, before 
the year 1251, early in the history of the Abbey, 
Roderick, the son of Keginald, gave for the service 
of the Church of St John (Killean) five penny- 
lands,* Among the sculptured stones in the 
Largie burying ground — north transept of old 
Killean Church — is one bearing the figure of an 
ecclesiastic in full canonicals. Whether it rests 
over the remains of Friar Simon, Haco's chap- 
lain, to whose obsequies the Greyfriars paid 
much honour, spreading a fringed pall over his 
grave and calling him a saint, or whether the 
dust of Abbot Thomas lies beneath it, has, with 
good reason, been conjectured ; but the existence 

^ Haco's Expedition, pp. 52-!Jo. - Keith's Catalogue, p. 258. 
3 Ibidem. •» lieg. Mag. Sig. Liber XIV., No. 389. 


of the sculptured stone seems to us to mark out 
the old Church of Killean as probably the last 
resting place of the Vicars to whom, under Saddell 
monastery, the spiritual oversight of that region 
pertained. To the Church of Killean probably 
smaller cells were attached.^ 

The most important of the churches that owed 
either their origin or resuscitation to the Lords of 
the Isles was the Abbey Church of lona. About 
1072, Queen Margaret had restored the monastery 
and revived its establishment, but by the latter 
half of the twelfth century these had again fallen 
into ruin and decay. Reginald MacSomerled, whom 
M'Vurich describes as " the most distinguished of 
the Galls, that is, the Norwegians, and of the 
Gaels for prosperity, sway of generosity, and feats 
of arms," resolved to repair the waste places of the 
sacred island and restore its church and monastery 
to more than their pristine glory. According to 
the same authority, " three monasteries were formed 
by him — a monastery of black monks in I, or lona, 
in honour of God and Saint Columchille ; a monas- 
tery of black nuns in the same place ; and a 
monastery of gray friars at Sagadul, or Saddle, 
in Kintyre," which latter we have already described. 
A column on the south-east, under the tower of St 
Mary's, bears the inscription — "Donaldus O'Brolchan 
fecit hoc opus." This "Donaldus" was prior of 
Derry, and a relative of Flaherty O'Brolchan, 
bishop and Abbot of Derry, and although there is 
no distinct record on the subject, " Donaldus" must 
have been prior of lona during the period these 
buildings were erected. As he died in 1203, the 

1 Fur notes ou the Cell of (sic) Tayiuloau we are indebted to the Rev. 
D. J. Macdonald, minister of Killean and Kilchenzie. 


Church and Monastery of lona must have been 
completed before that date, and this is further 
placed beyond doubt by the deed of confirmation 
of the Benedictine Monastery, which is still in the 
Vatican, and bears the date of 9th December, 1203/ 
The Tyronensis Order of Benedictine Monks, founded 
by Benedict, an Italian monk of the fifth and sixth 
centuries, and called black monks from the colour of 
their habits, was planted in the Monastery of lona 
by Reginald of the Isles, He also established there, 
in connection with it, an order of Benedictine nuns, 
over whose convent his sister Beatrice was the first 
prioress ; differing in this respect from the policy of 
the great Columkill himself, of whom tradition says 
that he would suffer none of the softer sex to set 
foot upon lona, and to whom the somewhat acrid 
saying is ascribed — 

" Far am bi bo bi bean 
'S far am bi bean bi mallachadh." 

(Where there is a cow there is a woman, 

And where there is a woman there is mischief). 

Early this century the inscription on the monu- 
mental slab over the remains of the first Prioress 
was legible to this extent — " Behag Nyn Shorle 
Ilvrid Priorissa," that is, "Beatrice daughter of 
Somerled Prioress." There is a tradition that 
the same pious lady built Trinity Temple, Carinish, 
the ruins of which are still standing in a state of 
comparative preservation.^ The historian of Sleat, 
on the other hand, ascribes its construction to 
another lady — also a descendant of Somerled — 
Amie Macruari, famous in her day for works of 
piety and charity, and whose memory is still fragrant 

^ Skene's Celtic Suotlaud, vol. II., p. 416. 
'* McVurich in Heliquise Celticae, vol, II., p. 167. 


among the people of the North Isles. Trinity 
Temple is probably not the architectural product of 
any one age. There are traces of a foundation older 
than the days of Somerled, going back to the time 
of the Celtic Church, shown by indications of one at 
least of those bee-hive cells characteristic of that 
early phase of church architecture. It is also to be 
noted that Christina (daughter of Allan Macruari 
and aunt of Amie), who flourished about the end of 
the thirteenth and beginning of the fourteenth 
century, gave a grant of the chapel and lands of 
Carinish to the Monastery of InchafFray, from which 
we infer that the Temple or Church in question is 
older than Amie, the wife of the " good" John of 
Isla. Hence the probable correctness of the 
McYuricli tradition that Trinity Church was built 
by the daughter of Somerled on a site formerly 
occupied by a Culdee establishment, though we may 
likewise adopt the tradition of Hugh Macdonald to 
the extent that, in later times, Amie Macruari did, 
as we shall see, repair and possibly enlarge the 
building. The Church of St Mary's, in lona, 
measured 160 ft. x 24, and 70 feet across the tran- 
septs, while its central tower, which still survives, 
is 70 feet in height. The high altar was of marble 
6 ft. X 4, but not a fragment now remains. Cockney 
tourists have gradually extracted it chip by chip, 
and Pennant not only is unashamed but rather 
makes merry over the fact that he himself was a 
unit in the noble army of Vandals !^ 

The connection of the Lords of the Isles with the 
Abbey of Paisley, with which they had no territorial 
bond, was maintained from the days of Somerled 

1 Vol. II., p. 253. 



down to the fall of the House of Isla, a period of 
300 years. We can only conjecture as to the 
original cause of this connection ; but we can hardly 
be mistaken in the view that the death of Somerled 
and of a number of his men in the region of West 
Renfrewshire would have led his son to give grants 
to the Monastery of Paisley to secure the offices of 
the Church for the souls of the fallen heroes. 
Before 1200, Reginald became a monk of Paisley, 
and granted to the monastery eight cows and two 
pennies for one year, and one penny in perpetuity 
from every house on his territory from which smoke 
issued, and his peace and protection whithersoever 
the monks should go, enjoining his dependants and 
heirs in no way to injure them, and swearing by 
St Columba to inflict on the former the punishment 
of death, and that the latter should have his male- 
diction if they disobeyed his injunction. His wife 
Fonia, who was a sister of the convent, granted to 
the monks the tithe of all her goods, whether in her 
own possession or sent for sale by land or sea.^ 
After the year 1210, Donald, the son of Reginald, 
who also had joined the brotherhood of Paisley, and 
whose wife became a sister of the convent, confirmed 
his father's grants both of the eight cows and of the 
smoke tax, for his salvation and that of his wife." 
Before 1295, Angus Mor, son of Donald, after the 
example of his father and grandfather, gave dona- 
tions to the same institution as a friend and brother 
of the order. The annual smoke tax is continued in 
the same terms, while the eight cows are commuted 
for a half merk of silver for each of the houses whence 
smoke issues, and half a merk also from his own 
mansion, the donor giving also his peace and friend- 

^ Reg. of Paisley, p. 125. - Ibid. 


ship.^ Also he grants them the right of fishing if 
they should desire it in any waters upon his terri- 
tories. Still further, for the salvation of his Lord 
and King Alexander II., and his son, Alexander III., 
also for his own and his heirs' he devoted to God and 
St James and Mirinus of the Monastery of Paisley 
and the monks there serving God and to serve God 
for ever, the Church of St Kiaran, in his lands of 
Kintyre, with all its pertinents. This was confirmed 
by his son Alexander. We do not find any further 
grants or confirmations on the part of the Lords of 
the Isles until the time of the last Earl of Hoss, 
whom w-e observe on the 21st May, 1455, bestowing 
on the Abbey and Convent of Paisley, for the honour 
and glory of God, and of the Virgin Mary and Saint 
Mirinus, and of all the Saints, the Pectories of the 
Churches of St Kerran, Colmanell in Kintyre, and 
KnajDdale, in the diocese of Argyle, given by his 
predecessors to them, for their and his salvation.^ 
We thus see that from the very beginning of the 
Island dynasty, reckoning from the time of Somerled, 
down to its direct close, this remarkable connection 
with Paisley Abbey is maintained, and what is still 
more strange, three in succession of these powerful 
and warlike Lords, Peginald, Donald, and Angus 
Mor, and last of all the line, John, Earl of Ross, 
quitting the stormy scene of battle, and entering the 
quiet and peaceful haven of monastic life. 

Having thus indicated, briefly, the relations of 
the Island Lords to the Monastery of Paisley, we 
may take up the thread of our narrative as regards 
their patronage of the Church wdthin their own 
domains. The first of the Lords of the Isles, after 
the time of Peginald MacSomerled, who stands forth 

' Reg. of Paisley, p. 127. - Ibid, 156. 


as a conspicuous ecclesiastical patron, is John, the 
son of Angus Og of Isla. During the wars of 
Scottish independence, which went on without much 
intermission from the death of Angus Mor, about 
1295, on to 1314, society was too much unsettled to 
admit of that devotion of the community to the 
affairs of its higher life, which needs a measure of 
tranquillity to call it forth, and even during the 
remainder of the reign of Bruce, the energies of that 
King and his supporters were directed to the con- 
solidation of the national power, which had received 
such rude shocks at the hands of foreign aggression 
and domestic treachery. Consequently, we can 
understand that ecclesiastical buildings would, in 
many cases, have fallen into a state of disrepair, and 
the interests of the Church been in a measure over- 
looked. Probably for this reason there is no record 
that Angus Og of Isla was able to devote such 
attention as his predecessors to the promotion of the 
Church's material welfare within his domains. If 
this was the case with regard to Angus Og, his son 
and successor amply atoned for it. Whatever may 
have been his own proclivities in this connection, 
his marriage with Amie Macruari, a lady of great 
piety and benevolence, would have helped any bias 
he possessed towards promoting the interests of the 
Church, and to her is due no small share of the 
credit which won for this eminent Chief the grati- 
tude and affection of the Island clergy. The grants 
of land he bestowed upon the Church, and the 
liberality with which he defrayed the cost of new 
erections, as well as the repair of former desolations, 
many of which have doubtless escaped the record of 
the historian, all this certainly entitled him to the 
respect of the churchmen of the Isles, and gained for 


him, not undeservedly, the name by which he is best 
known in history, " the good John of Isla." 

In the island of Finlaggan, on which stood the 
palace of the De He family, there was also a small 
chapel, which, owing to the troublous times of John's 
predecessor, had become roofless and dilapidated. 
This, with the chapels on Isle Eorsag and of Isle 
Suibne (in Loch Sween), was roofed and made habi- 
table by authority of the Lord of the Isles, while 
he also made provision whereby they should be 
appointed " with all their appropriate instruments 
for order and mass for the service of God, for the 
better upholding of the monks and priests this lord 
kept in his company."^ He also made gifts, probably 
of land, to the monks of lona, and we find him 
granting to the monks of Saddell two merklands, 
called Lesenmarg, in the district of Kintyre. The 
most considerable, however, of all his gifts to the 
Church in the Hebrides was the erection of the 
Priory of Oransay, the remains of which, with the 
exception of lona, are the most interesting in the 
Western Isles. St Columba and his disciple Oran 
are said by tradition to have settled in Colonsay and 
Oransay before they finally determined to take up 
their abode in Hy. Be this as it may, there api)ear 
to have been in both islands religious establishments 
under the Columban Church, but all traces of the 
buildings must have disappeared centuries ago. It 
is probably on the sites of the older churches that 
the newer ones were built. There is a strong pro- 
bability that the Church of Colonsay, which was 
an Abbey, was built by the good John, though 
Father Hay says in his Scotia Sacra that the name 
of the founder had been lost through the mistake of 

1 Reliquiaj Celticfc, vol. II., pp. 150-lHl. 


transcribers, or the ignorance or negligence of 
librarians. It was built at a place still known as 
Kilouran, but the stones were long ago carted away 
for the construction of a farm house. The canons 
were of Holyrood. While there is some obscurity as 
to the origin of Kilouran, there is none as regards 
the Priory of Oransay, for none other does Mac- 
Vurich refer to when he says that John, Lord of the 
Isles, erected the monastery of the holy cross (Holy- 
rood) a long time before his death. ^ It is said to 
have been built as a cell of Holyrood, but tradition 
says that Kilouran, or the Abbey of Colonsay, was 
the Church on which Oransay Priory was dependant ; 
and while the Augustinian order of canons regular 
might have been originally brought from Holyrood, 
the verdict of tradition is very probably correct. 
Transitional Early English in style, its roofless church 
measures 77f feet in length and 18 feet in width, 
and has a fine three-light Gothic E. window. It 
retains a very peculiar cloister girth forming a 
square of 40 feet without and 28f feet within. In 
Pennant's time^ (1772) the cloister had on one side 
a round arcading of five members, or small arches ; 
while two other sides facing each other showed 
seven low triangular head arches with plain square 
columns. The adjoining buildings are ruined ; but 
a handsome cross remains, 12 feet high by Ij feet 
broad and 7 inches thick, while the mutilated frag- 
ments of another cross lie near. The church 
contains a number of curious efiigies. One of these 
is in a side chapel beneath an arch, and is of an 
abbot of the MacDutHe family (who, according to 
Hugh Macdonald, were Hecordors of the Isles), hold- 
ing two fingers erect in the attitude of benediction. 

^ Reliquiiu Celtics^, vol, II., pp. 160-1. - Vol. II., p. 236. 


We have already referred to the MacVurich 
tradition that Trinity Chapel, Carinish, N. Uist, 
was built by Beatrice, the daughter of Somerled. 
It is equally probable that owing to the ravages 
of time it had become dilapidated, and its repair 
and jJi'obable enlargement by Amie Macruari so 
far justifies Hugh Macdonald's tradition that it 
was built by her. This ruin stands on a command- 
ing elevation at the southern extremity of the 
island of North Uist, in early times the property 
of the Macruari family. Though the area covered 
by its site is not extensive, the height of the walls 
and the size of the east window indicate a founda- 
tion of some importance. The apertures are pai'tly 
pointed and partly round in their heads, but 
although the main building stands east and west 
there is no trace of a cruciform construction, a 
fact which seems to indicate that in its chief 
outlines it must have existed before the Gothic 
type of structure came into vogue in the Islands ; 
and thus it may be a genuine relic of the architecture 
of the Celtic Church. On the south there has been 
a side building, used now as a separate burying 
ground, and on the north-east there is communication 
by a round-headed doorway and a short waggon- 
vaulted passage with a small chapel lighted by a 
small square topped window in each end. Trinity 
Temple and its church lands were famous in olden 
times as a place of sanctuary or girth, a i^efuge from 
the avenger of blood. When the waters separating 
N. Uist from Benbecula ebb twice in the twenty-four 
hours, there remains a ford or stream which bounds 
the southern extremity of the Church or termon 
lands still called " sruthan na Comraich," a name 
which bears, and for ages to come will continue to 


bear, interesting testimony to a phase of Celtic 
Church hfe which has long since passed away. 

The rebuilding or repair of Trinity Temple was 
but one among many pious deeds wrought by Amie. 
She also built the Parish Church of St Columba, in 
Benbecula, and the little oratory in the island of 
Grimsay ; while her husband, the good John, 
mortified eight merklands in N. Uist and two farms 
in Benbecula to the Church in that region. While 
these cases of her pious interest in religion remain 
on record, she probably did much that is unrecorded 
to strengthen and support the ecclesiastical organisa- 
tion in the Isles. 

The sons of John of Isla, both of the first and 
second marriage, seem to have followed in their 
father's footsteps. Donald of Harlaw, who succeeded 
as Lord of the Isles, was, according to MacYurich, 
" an entertainer of clerics and priests and monks ; 
gave lands to the monastery of lona, and every 
immunity which the monastery of lona had from 
his ancestors before him," He made a covering of 
gold and silver for the relic of the hand of St 
Columba, He is also said to have presented vessels 
of gold and silver to Icolmkill for the monastery, 
and, like several of his ancestors, and like his 
grandson long after him, he at last retired from 
the world and joined the brotherhood of the order 
of that monastery, 

Godfrey, the second son of John of Isla by Amie, 
became, on the death of his father, Lord of Uist, 
and we find him in his castle of Ellantirrim, on the 
7th July, 1389, confirming a grant by his grand- 
aunt, Christina, daughter of Allan Macruari, of the 
Church of the Holy Trinity in Uist and the whole 
land of Carinish, and four pennylands in Ilara 




between Husabost (Kirkibost) and Kennerach to 
the monastery and convent of John the evangehst 
at Inchaffrey. Ranald, the eldest son of John of 
Isla, who resigned in favour of his brother Donald, 
received a princely heritage by charter from his 
father, and that he realised the responsibilities 
attached to the possession of such wide territories is 
confirmed by the testimony of MacYurich, who 
speaks of him as "a man of augmenting churches 
and monasteries. . . . He bestowed an Unciata 
of land in Uist on the monastery of lona forever 
in honour of God and of Columba." Other churches 
and religious houses — of which the remains are still 
extant, or existed until recent times in Uist, and of 
the foundation or erection of which no record remains 
— may probably be traced either to the Macruaris of 
the North Isles, or Ranald, the founder of the Clan- 
ranald family, or his descendants. On a farm in 
Benbecula, now called Nunton, there were last 
century the ruins of a rmnnery ; but when the 
mansion and office houses were built for Clanranald, 
about 150 years ago, the old nunnery was not 
considered an unsuitable quarry, and not a vestige 
of the walls remain. About two miles or so north 
of Nunton, and at Balivanich, the remains of a 
monastery are still to be seen on a small islet in 
a lake. The parish of Howmore, or Skeirhough 
as it appears in ancient records, now the main 
portion of the modern parish of S. Uist, contains 
in the neighbourhood of the present church ecclesi- 
astical remains of some antiquity. Two ruined 
gables— one of St Mary's and the other of St 
Columba's Church — are still pointed out, with 
several smaller chapels or oratories ; but although 
situated in the midst of a Roman Catholic com- 


m unity, it is singular that hardly a hint of 
tradition survives regarding the history of these 
pre-Reformation buildings. They probably belong 
to the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, having been 
erected not by any of the Lords of the Isles, v^hose 
connection with Uist V7as never very direct, but 
either in the latter days of the Macruari sway or 
early in the history of the Clanranald chiefs. 

Under the sway of the two last Lords of the 
Isles recognised by the Crown, who were also Earls 
of Koss, we find a continuance of the same policy 
towards the Church which had so long and without 
interruption been pursued by the Chiefs of Clan 
Cholla. At a date so uncertain that it can only 
be referred to as before 1449, we find Alexander. 
Lord of the Isles, granting to the monks of Sagadull 
(Saddell) the island of " Sanct Barre" (now called 
Davaar island), and also the two merklands called 
Cragvan, in Gigha, with their pertinents. The 
gifts of these Lords were not confined to their island 
territories. In the Earldom of Ross and Sherifidom 
of Inverness they apparently adopted the same 
course. On the 4th September, 1437, Alexander 
de lie, Earl of Ross, made the following donation 
to the Prior and Friars of Inverness : — 

" To all the faithful to whose knowledge the present letters 
shall come, Alexander de lie, Earl of Koss and Lord of the Isles ; 
Greeting eternal in the Lord ; Know that we for the salvation of 
our soul and for the salvation of the souls of our fathers, ancestors, 
and successors have given, granted, and by this present writ 
confirmed to the religious men, the prior and friars of the 
Dominican Pi-eachers of Inverness, twenty shillings of annual 
rent, of the usual money of the Kingdom of Scotland, to be paid 
annually at two terms of the year, viz., of Pentecost and St 
Martins, by equal portions of our laud and ferry of Easter. 
Kessock, with the pertinents in. pure and perpetual charity as 


freely as any annual rent is given and granted to any other 
religious men in the Kingdom of Scotland. In testimony of 
which matter we have caused our seal to be appended at 
Inverness, the 4th day of the month of September, in the year 
of the Lord 1437. These, with many others, being witnesses, 
viz., Torquil McLoyde, Lord of Leyvhous (Lewis), George Mvmro 
of Foulis, Alexander McCullach, and Lord Blanc." 

By the Roll of Rents, Feus, and Maills it appears 
that the above annual of twenty shillings is still 
payable by the Estate of Redcastle for the lands 
of Kessock, having been transferred at the Reforma- 
tion to the Burgh of Inverness, and forming part 
of its revenues to this day.^ There is also a grant 
by the same Earl of Ross, not apparently to the 
Church but personally to the parish clergyman of 
Kiltearn, made 23rd March, 1439. 

" Be it maid kend till all men be thir present letters US 
Alexander the Earl of Ross and Justiciar to our Soverane Lord the 
King fra the north part of the water of Forth till haf giffyn to 
Walter of Urchard our cousin parson of Kilteyrn all the right of 
the lands of Finlay and Rosan within the burgh of Cromathy 
and his ousgang of Newaty notagane standand that the foresaid 
Walter is sister dochter wes ayr to the foresaid lands We gif that 
as of free gift to the said Walter as throw vertue of our office and 
throw power at 'langs til ovir lege lord the King, the fee as giffyn 
throw our gift, the Frank tenement remanand with the foresaid 
Walter quhilke be parte of the same at lyes upon the foresaid 
land as the Indenter party proports maid tharupon. And we the 
forsaid Alexander Earl of Ross warrands to the said Walter his 
ayrs and his assigneys the foresaid lands and at no man be so 
hardy to make grife molestation to the said Walter in the said 
lands onder the panes of lywis lands and guds at they may tyne 
agains the King and us giffyn onder our greit seil at Balkny the 
xxiii. day of March the zeir of our Lord m'^ iiii^ xxxix." 

Before the year 1475, John, Lord of the Isles, 
and Angus, his son, granted to the Abbey of Saga- 
dull the lands of Knockantebeg and 12 unciate of 

^ luvernessiaua (by Charles Fraser-Mackintcfth, Esq.), p. 109. 



land called Kellipull/ while in 1492, the year before 
his final forfeiture, we find the same potentate as 
patron of the Church of Kilberry in Knapdale 
granting to Robert, Bishop of Argyle, his rights as 
such, upon which it was united to the Bishoprick as 
a mensal Church, Owing to the loss of the writs of 
the See of the Isles, we cannot pretend to give 
anything like a complete account of the Church 
built or the lands mortified to the service of religion 
by the Lords of the Isles. The Pre-Beformation 
Church of Morvern, known as Kilcholumchill, was a 

From Photo by Messrs M'Isaac & Riddle, Oban. 


deanery, and it derives interest from the fact that 
Boderick M'Allister, called by M'Vurich " Parson 
Bory," and a brother of the famous John Moydart- 
ach, the incumbent in 1545, was one of the Plenipo- 
tentiaries of Donald Dubh in his negotiations with 
Henry VIII. The fine window alone remains in 

1 Reg. Mag. Sig. Lib. XIV., No. 408. 


outline of what must once have been a handsome 
Gothic structure. It stands in the neighbourhood 
of Ardthornish Castle, and it is not unnatural to 
suppose that it owed its origin to the Lord of the 
Isles. A tall Celtic cross stands in the immediate 

From Photo by Messrs M'lsaac & Riddir, Oban. 


In thus concluding our review of the numerous 
and costly gifts by " the clan who never vexed the 
Church," we cainiot but be struck by the thought 
that amid all their generosity to religious establish- 
ments throughout their domains and elsewhere, they 
never, from the days of Somerled downwards, ceased 
their benefactions to the Abbey of Saddell. Amid 
all changes of time and fortune they always turned 
to it as the chief claimant upon their wealth, the 
earliest and most beloved home of their faith. 

Having thus considered the relation of the Lords 
of the Isles to the Church as an outward organisa- 
tion, we may now devote a very brief space to a 


consideration of the Church under their sway as an 
educative agency in the life of the people. It is 
well known that learning as well as religion was for 
many centuries in the hands of churchmen. Owing 
to the long connection of the Columban Church with 
Ireland, it was inevitable that the standard of 
written Irish should have been introduced by the 
Columban monks into Scotland. Irish Gaelic thus 
became to a large extent the language of the 
Church, the monastery, and the school. The literary 
connection between Ireland and lona was thus for 
ages very pronounced, and was only interrupted in 
the eighth century, when the Scandinavian inva- 
sions, among other causes, reduced that Celtic shrine 
to a state of ruin and decay. The connection thus 
broken was again renewed in the eleventh century, 
after the Norseman had embraced Christianity and 
a settled government was established in the Isles ; 
but especially when the Scoto-Irish race of Somerled 
became, in the twelfth century, the ruling family in 
the Western Highlands. The revival of Gaelic 
culture in these regions through the De He Family, 
and, to some extent, also through the MacDugalls of 
Lorn, is exemplified by the fact that almost all the 
known Scottish MSS. are to be traced to the seats 
of learning in lona, Saddell, i^rdchattan, Lismore, 
and Kilmun. The government which the Lords of 
the Isles thus maintained for three hundred years 
in the West rendered possible and easy not only the 
cultivation of Gaelic as a spoken, but also to a large 
extent as a literary, language. This of course could 
only be done through the countenance and fostering 
care of the religious houses in the North of Ireland, 
which, in times of peace and security, were nursing 
mothers to lona and other monasteries in the 


Western Highlands. Although Latin had always 
been the language of literature, of sacred learn- 
ing, and of business, the study of Gaelic as a 
literary language must have been largely encouraged 
by the Church in the more purely Celtic regions 
from the da.ys of St Columba. Hence, under the 
shelter of the Church, itself the earliest home of 
letters, as well as of the arts and sciences, there 
arose Gaelic literary schools in Ireland which 
embraced the West Highlands in the sphere of 
their operations. In illustration of this, we find the 
Annals of the Four Masters, in 1448, recording the 
death of Teague O'Coffey, " chief preceptor of the 
poets of Erin and Alban." Of these schools, the 
bards and seanachies of Ireland were the heads, and 
it was quite a usual course for the family bards and 
chroniclers of the Isles, as in the case of the Mac- 
Vurichs, to resort to those bardic colleo^es to receive 
instruction in the accomplishments and technique of 
their art, sometimes, no doubt, in defiance of the 
truth contained in the adage, " Poeta nascitur non 
fit." On this account the Gaelic cf the Book of 
Clanranald abounds in Irishisms which clearly 
diflPerentiate it from the common Scottish Gaelic, 
as well as from the dialect that came gradually 
into written use after the fall of the Lordship of 
the Isles severed the connection with Ireland. 

Dr Skene, whose researches into the organisation 
of the Celtic Church both in its heyday and fall are 
most exhaustive and full of interest, tells us that 
among the functionaries of that Church, as late as 
the thirteenth century, was the fey'leiginn, lector or 
man of learning, whose duties seem to have been 
purely educative as distinguished from the more 


sacred or religious phases of ecclesiastical life.^ The 
work of the ferleiginn consisted in teaching the arts 
of reading, writing, and other necessary accomplish- 
ments to those who were undergoing a course of 
instruction to fit them for the service of the 
Church, and doubtless also in imparting knowledge 
to members of the higher classes who sometimes, 
if not universally, were sent to acquire the elements 
of knowledge in the monastic institutions both of 
Ireland and Scotland. The range and extent of 
the learning conveyed in these monasteries may 
perhaps seem narrow if judged by the standard of 
to-day, but so far as it went it must have been 
sufficiently thorough. In one of the polite arts 
we, of this age, can certainly not hope to equal 
them. The finer types of MS. which have survived 
from the time of the Columban Church downwards 
for" many centuries — of which the Books of Kells 
and Deer, the Lindisfare Gospels, and other beauti- 
fully written documents of the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries are specimens — bear abundant 
testimony that in the art of penmanship, as well 
as of decorative skill, nothing can be produced 
to-day equal in beauty of execution to these monu- 
ments of past ages. It would appear that while 
the ferleiginn was a survival of Celtic Christianity, 
the function of education must have been carried 
on by the Latin Church probably by means of an 
official of similar standing, though the name itself 
may have disappeared. The close connection 
between the Lords of the Isles and the Church 
down to the end of the dynasty suggests the 
probability that, although learning was often 
regarded as a monkish accomplishment by men 

' Celtic Scotland, vol. II., pp. 447-48, 


whose true business was to fight, yet they may 
not have been, and probably were not, altogether 
illiterate. These Lords almost invariably appended 
seals instead of signatures to such surviving docu- 
ments as they had to attest, and this renders 
the question difficult to answer — had they any 
literary education ? The sole signature we possess 
of a Lord of the Isles — that of Donald of Harlaw 
to the Gaelic charter of 1408 — seems to throw some 
light upon the subject. The large bold characters, 
quite worthy in that respect of the King of Innse- 
Gall, are clearly the work of one who was versed 
in the art of writing. It is surely not an unwarrant- 
able inference that, whatever his forbears may have 
been educationally, his son and grandson would 
have received no less advantages in this respect than 
he did. Judging, indeed, by Hugh Macdonald's 
tradition, which in this matter may be trustworthy 
enough, the last John would appear to have been 
endowed with more education than was prevalent 
at the time, except among the professional classes. 
A change for the worse, however, seems to have 
taken place educationally in the Western Isles in 
the first half of the sixteenth century. By the year 
1545, there is disclosed a literary dearth betokening 
a previous famine intense and prolonged. It is not 
only that we find Donald Dubh, the aspirant to the 
Island honours, signing with his " hand ab the pen," 
as might be expected from his life-long imprison- 
ment, but every one of the 18 barons of his Council, 
the principal chiefs in the Isles, from Sir Hector 
Maclean, his Chamberlain, downwards, having their 
signs manual to the Commission in favour of the 
plenipotentiaries, adhibited by a notary public. This 
in itself is a clear proof that, educationally, the hands 



of the clock of history had gone back hundreds of 
years. As a further sign that education was 
stagnant, and particularly that the standard of Irish 
Gaelic had disappeared from the Western Highlands, 
we have the Book of Dean McGregor of Lismore, 
written in phonetic Gaelic, in 1512, a knowledge of 
the standard Irish having been, from the circum- 
stances of his time, denied him. These facts, of 
course, are not difficult to account for. The 
transition from the dominance of the Roman 
Catholic Church to the new order of the Reformed 
Religion, revolutionary in its nature, and accom- 
panied by the fall or decay of the monasteries, must 
for the time being have proved unfavourable to 
educational progress. More directly affecting the 
Western Isles, however, was the fall of the House 
of Isla in 1493. Hitherto the central bond of social 
order and authority in the West, in the Church, 
education, and secular life ; with the fall of that 
House the connection with the literary schools of 
Ireland ceased, the patronage of learning in the Isles 
passed away, and the principahty became for upwards 
of a generation the scene of feuds and struggles, of 
chronic strife and disorder, which proved entirely 
subversive of a condition of things in which such a 
matter as education could for a moment be con- 

We have already referred to the beautiful embel- 
lishment of some of the rarer types of MSS., but 
this is by no means the only proof that the ancient 
Celt excelled in artistic work. Th^ sculptured 
remains in church and cemetery clearly indicate 
their superiority in other forms of decofative art. 
In the architecture of. such remains as' Ion a and 
Oronsay, in the crosses and gravestones to be met 


with in Isla and other Hebridean isles, there is often 
shown an elaborate ornamentation evincing a high 
degree of artistic skill. In these sculptured stones 
we come across many illustrations of a poetic 
symbolism peculiarly Celtic. The shears cutting 
the thread of life, borrowed from classic myth ; the 
trefoil and triangle, emblems of eternity or of the 
Trinity ; the struggle with wild beasts, indicating 
man's subjugation of the brute powers of nature, all 
illustrate the same characteristic. Common among 
the tableaux we meet with are hunting scenes ; dogs 
in pursuit of deer, suggestive of men's favourite pur- 
suits in time of peace ; low relieved by warriors and 
ladies, vested ecclesiastics, archers and harpers, 
galleys, griffins and armed horsemen. No doubt the 
original home whence these arts of architecture, sculp- 
ture, and others were imported into the Highlands 
was Ireland ; but the connection between it and the 
Western Isles was for centuries so close that in all 
the essential features of their intellectual life they 
were the same. If the master craftsmen came first 
from Ireland, they doubtless found apt and willing 
pupils among their kinsmen of the Scottish Isles. 
This alone would furnish proof, if proof were needed, 
that during the middle ages the Gaelic races of 
Scotland were not, as some writers would have us 
believe, sunk in the depths of barbaric ignorance. 



Sciant omnes tarn presentes quam futuri quod ego Reginald us Chart ukry of 
filius Sumerled dominus de Inchegal factus sum frater, et uxor I'iiisley. 
mea Fonia soror in capitulo domus de Passelet et in toto ordine 
Cluniacensi et ego verus frater et bonus amicus predictis monachis 
fratribus meis de Passelet imperpetuum mansurus, cum heredibus 
meis et hominibus meis, testimonio sigilli mei concessi eis me 
daturum sibi pro salute mea et uxoris raee et heredum meorum 
et hominum in hoc anno octo boves et duos denarios ex qualibet 
domo unde fumus exit, et post hunc annum singulis annis unum 
denarium ex qualibet domo totius terra mee unde fumus exit dabo 
illis et post me heredes mei dabunt, aut maledictionem meam 
habebunt nisi promptissime dederint Preterea uxor mea Fonia 
concessit eis se daturam illis in elemosinam decimam omnium 
rerum que sibi Deus dederit, scilicet tarn ex ipsis que apud se 
retinere voluerit quam ex illis que per terram vel per mare ad 
vedendum imperpetuum miserit. Et quia ego et heredes mei 
participes sumus et imperpetuum erimus omnium bonorum que in 
domo de Passelet in todo ordine fiunt vel imperpetuum ficnt, tarn 
in orationibus quam in ceteris divine servitutis obsequis, dedi eis 
et concessi et hoc presenti scripto auctoritate sigilli mei roborato 
confirmavi, firmam pacem meam et omnium heredum meorum et 
hominum, cum manutenemento bone fraternitatis, ubicunque ipsi 
vel homines eorum fuerunt aut venerint, in terra vel in mari, 
supplicans amicis meis et precipieno omnibus hominibus meis et 
ubicunque invenerint predictas monachos fratres meos aut eorum 
homines ipsos manuteneant et in suis auxilientur negotiis, scientes 
pro certo quod per Sanctum Columbam si aliquis heredum meorum 
eis malefecerit, maledictionem meam habebit, vel si quid mali 


forte ab hominibus meis, vel ab aliis de quibus esos vindicare 
potero, sibi vel suis factum fuerit, mortis pena punientur. Hiis 
testibus Ameleo filio Gillecolmi, Gillecolmo filio Gilmihel, Mauricio 
capellano meo, et multis aliis ibi tunc presentibus. 


Chartulary of Sciant omnes tam presentes quam futuri quod ego Dovenaldus 
Paisley. fiijus Reginaldi filii Somerled dominus de Inchegal factus sum 
frater et uxor mea, soror in capitulo domus de Passelet et in toto 
ordine Cluniacensi ; et ego veru.s frater et bonus amicus predictis 
monachis fratribus meis de Passelet imperpetuum mansurus cum 
heredibus meis et hominibus meis quibus fraternitatem predicte 
domus et participationem et omnium beneficiorum totius ordinis 
Cluniacensis, a jam dictis monachis adquisivi concessi eis me 
daturum sibi, testimonio sigilli mei octo vaccas pro salute mea et 
uxoris mee [et de qualibet domo] unde pro ipsis denariis octo 
vaccas. Et quia ego et heredes mei et homines mei participes 
sumus et imperpetuum erimus omnium sicut, tam in orationibus 
quam in ceteris divine servitutis obsequiis dedi eis et concessi, et 
hoc presenti scripto auctoritate sigilli mei roborato confirmavi 
firmam pacem meam et omnium heredum meorum et hominum 
- meorum cum manutenemento bone fraternitatis ubicunque ipsi vel 
homines eorum fuerint aut venerint in terra vel in mari Supplicans 
amicus meis et precipiens omnibns hominibus meis ut ubicunque 
invenerint predictos monachos fratres mea et eorum homines ipsos 
manuteneant et in suis auxilientur negotiis scientes pro certo quod 
per Sanctum Columbam si quid mali forte ab hominibus meis vel 
ab aliis de quibus eos vindicare potero sibi vel suis factum fuerit, 
morti pena punientur. Et notandum quod ubicunque ego vel 
heredes mei aut aliqui ex hominibus meis mortui fuerimus, in 
terra vel in mari, predict! monachi orabunt pro nobis imperpetuum 
ut salvi simus, et per totum ordinem Cluniacensem orationis pro 
nobis fieri facient. Hiis testibus Ameleo filio Gillecolmi, Gilli- 
colmo filio Gilmihel, Mauricio capellano meo et multis aliis, ex 
propriis hominibus meis. 



Sciant omnes tarn presentes quam futuri quod ego Angus filius Chartulary of 
Dovenaldi verus frater et amicus domus de Passelet ad exemplum Paisley. 
avi mei et patris mei, dedi, concessi, et hac prcsenti carta mea 
confirmavi Deo et monasterio de Passelet et monacliis ibidem Deo 
servieutibus in puram et perpetuam elemosinam dimidiam marcam 
argenti de domo mea propria et heredum meorum annuatim et de 
singulis domibus per omnes terras meas de quibus fumus exit 
mium denarium singulis annis imperpetuum. Dedi, etiam et 
concessi dictis monachis et hominibus suis firmam pacem meam et 
heredum et hominnm meorum cum manutenemento bone fraterni- 
tatis, ubicunque fnerint aut venerint per potestatem nostram in 
terra vel in mari, Supplicans amicis meis, et precipiens onmibus 
meis super meam plenariam forisfacturam, tit ubicunque invenerint 
predictos monachos fratres meos et eorum homines ipsos manu- 
teneant et in suis auxilientu.r negotiis. Et si dicti monachi vel 
eorum litteras Abbatis vel conventus diferentes ad partes nostras 
causa piscandi aliquando venire voluerint dedi et concessi eisdem 
licentiam et facultatem piscandi ubique in potestate mea et 
heredum meorum congruentibus piscature et piscatoribus. In 
cujus rei testimonium presenti scripto sigillum meum apposui. 
Hiis testibus Alexandro fratre meo. Ferchardo de Buit Duncano 
fratre sua Throfino, Gilberto filio Samuelis Petro clcrico Henrico 
Russel Thomas justore Wilelmodi Stragrif, Laurentio clerico et 
multis aliis. 


Venerabili patri in Christo domino Laurencio Dei Gratia Chartulary 
Ergadiensi episcopo ceterisque Christi fidelibus ad quorum Paisley- 
aspectum preseus scriptum pervenerit Jacobus senescallus Scotie 
dominus Robertus thesaurarius ecclesie Glasguensis Magister 
Thomas Nicholai subdecanus ejusdem loci et Magister Alexandri 
Kenedi canonicus ejusdem ecclesie, salutem in Domino sempi- 
ternam. Quia pat pecatum est mendacio consentire et veritati 
Testimonium subtrahere, in falsitas prevaleat veritati vel iniquitas 
prejudicet equitate inversitati vestre presentibus significamus nos 
inspexisse cartam domini Engus filii Dovenaldi super (ecclesie) 


Saiicti Queraui in Keutyir iiecnon et confirmationes venerabilium 
patrum dominorum, Alani et Laureuti Ergadiensium episcoporum 
super eadem ecclesia religiosi viris Abbati et couventiu de Passelet 
concessas et roborates non rasas, non abolitas non laniatas nee ni 
aliquia parte vitiatas, in hec verba. Omnibus Christi fidelibus 
tarn presentibus qiiam fiituris Engus filius Dovenaldi eternam in 
Domino salutem. Sciates me intuitu pietatis et pro salute 
domini mei Alexandri illustris regis Scotie et pro salute Alexandri 
filii ejus, et pro salute mea propria et heredum meorum, dedisse 
concessisse st hac carta mea confirmasse Deo et Sancto Jacobo et 
Sancto Mirino monasterii de Passelet et monachis ibidem Deo 
servientibus et imperpetuum servituris ecclesiam Sancti Querani 
in Serra mea (que) Kentyir appelatur Tenendam el habendam in 
liberam, puram et perpetuam elemosinam cum omnibus Justus 
pertinentiis suis ita libere et quiete sicut aliquia ecclesia tenetur 
et possidetut liber i us et quietus in regno Scotie ex donatione 
comitis vel barones habentis jus patronatus in ecclesiis. Hie 
Testibus Alano de Nef milite, Ferchar filio Nigilli de Buyd 
Dovenaldo clerico de Kildufbenin, Gilhis iVIacduntith, Kennauth 
Macgilruth, Gilleshop nuntio, et aliis. 


Chartulary of Omnibus Christi fidelibus presens scriptum visuris vel 
Paisley. audituris Alexander de Hyle filius et here domini Engusii filii 
Dovenaldi domini de Hyle, salutem in Domino sempiternam. 
Noverit universita vestra me inspexisse et palpasse cartam domini 
patris mei, non rasam, non abolitam nee maliquia parte sui 
vatiatam vel reprehensibilem, in hec verba Omnibus Christe 
fidelibus tam presentibus quam futuris Engus filius Dovenaldi 
eternem salutem Sciatis me intuita pietatis et pro salute 
domini mei Alexandri illustris regis Scotie, et cetera omnia de verbo 
ad verhum ut prescribitti)' usque illuc, habenti jus patronatus 
in ecclesiis Hanc siquidem donationem, concessionem, et confirma- 
tionem ratam et firmam habere volens imperpetuum, eam sigillo 
meo duxi roborandam ; et nicbilominus ex habundant ut omnis 
materia controversie tollatur de cetero, predictis monachis 
pronominatam ecelesiam sicut scriptum est in omnibus do, 
concede et presenti scripto meo confirmo Et ne ceca depereat 
oblivione aliquo tempore quod per me pia devotione gestum est et 


recognitum, presens scriptum sigillo meo una cum sigillo domini 
Laurencii Dei gratia Ergadiensis episcopi, et donaini Roberti Brus' 
comitis de Carrie gratia Majoris testimouii roborari procuravi. 
Hiis testibus domino Patricio Dei gratia abbots monasterii de 
Crosragal domino Roberto Brus' comite de Carrie Roberto filio 
ejusdem et herede domino Roberto Anglico milite, domino Marico 
vicario de Aran Patricia clerico de Kentyir domino Nicholao 
Monacho de Crosragal et aliis. 


Consimiles litteras de conduetu habet Anegus filius Dovenaldi Patent Roll, 
et Alexander filius ejus, pro se, hominibus et mercatoribus suis in 
Hibernia, cum clausulis praedictis duraturas quamdiu regi 
placuerit, ut supra. 

Teste rege, apud Berewyke super Twedam, xj. die Julii. 


A Touz ceaus qi eelte lettre veront ou ori'ont, Alisaundre des Record Office, 
Isles fuiz Anegus fuiz Douenald. Saluz en Dieu. Sachez nous le 
jour de la Feste de la Translation Seint Thomas le Martin, Ian de 
grace millyme deu sentyme nonauntyme secund, a Berwick sur 
Twede en la "presence nostre Seignour, mon Sire Edward par le 
gi'ace Deu Roy du Engleterre, e soverein Seignur du Reaume 
d' Escoce, par eelte presente lettre avoir grantes e sur seintes Evan- 
geles avoir juree e a nostre pouer se restent sauveroms gareeroms 
e meintendroms la pees du Reaume d' Escoce, e especiaument la 
pees des Ylles e des terres forreines dever noz parties. 

E. qe toutz contents, debatz e demaundes des terres, e de 
tenementz, chauteaus, e de tote mainere des trespas, mutz ou a 
movoir entre nous, e Alisaundre Eragaithel seigneur de Lome et 
John son eyne fiz, cesserount, e en quiete reposerouut entre cy e 
le parlement, establi a Berewyk par devant nostre Seignour le Roy 
a la quinzeme apres la Sein Michel prochein avenyr, e durant le 


dyt parlement. En quel il lyst a nous feure nos pleintes devaunt 
le devauntdit nos Seignui' le Roy, e son counseil. Seloni les leys 
e les usages du Reaume d' Escoce ; enfint qe les pleintes de vine 
part e de autre, soient adonges en meisme V estat, qil furent le 
jour qe celte lettre fust fete. 

E. qe nous endementiqs ne froms procuroms estre fet mal, ne 
damoge a les avaunt dix Alisaunder de Eregaitliel et son fiz ne la 
soens voloms ensement, e grauntoms qe nous ne rescetteroms en 
nule maniere, ne Sustendroms nul mesfesour, ne nul autre, qe 
Justicer ne se voille par la commune ley de la terre ; e nomement 
Roulaunde le fuiz Aleyn, e Dunckan le fuiz Dugald si il ne voillent 
estre obeisaunt al avauntdit nostri Seignour le Roy e venir a sa 
pees. E si il seent trouey desobeisauntz nous grauntoms e pro- 
mettoms qe novis o tot nostre pouet, en aide a Sire Johan Comyn 
e a Sire James Seneschal d' Escoce, deuz de Cardeins du Reaume 
leveroms, e eyderoms, e les pursuiroms en totes manieres qe 
meismes ceaus Gardeins ordonerount e purverunt, jesqes a tant 
qil soient prix on eint le Reaume voide ; mes que alowe nous feit 
ceo, qe nous froms outre nostre deu servise. 

E. leaument promettoms qe nos, en totes chose, qe touchent 
la pees, e la garde du Reaume d' Escoce, e des avauiiditz YUes 
e terres forreines, as avaunt dits Gardeins serront entendauntz, 
responauntz e obeisauntz. 

E. si il oveigne qe nous encountra nul des articles, avaunt 
nomez denz le tens avavndyt, sesoms ou veignoms, e de ceo 
Sesoms ateynt ; nous nous obligeoms par cette lettre a nostre 
Seignur le Roy avauntdit a perte de vie e de membre, de terre e 
de tenement, e de touz nos biens a sa volunte ; e qe encountre 
ceo nule ley, ne coustume, valoir nous puisse. En tesmoigne de 
cestes choses a cette preaente lettre nous avoms mis nos seals. 

Don. a Berewyk sur Twede, le jour de la Feste de la Transla- 
tion Seint Thomas le Martir, Ian du Regne nostre Seignur le Roy 
avauntdit vyntyme 

(sub sigillo proprio) 


Eotuli Scotife. tlex et superior dominus i-egni Scotise dilecto et fideli suo 
Johanni eadem gratia regi Scottorum illustri salutem. Querulam 
Alexandri de Insula et Juliane uxoris sue recipimus • continentem 
quo cum ipsi in cura nostra coram vobis terram partem terre de 


Lysmor cum pertinentibus que est in manu vestra ut dicitur ut 
jus suum de hereditate ipsius Juliane sibi reddi pettivissent et 
cum magna instantia vobis phiries supplicassent quod eis inde in 
curia vestra justitiam fieri facietis vos id eis facere denegastis et 
in justitia eis super hoc exhibenda totaliter defuistis propter quod 
iidem Alexander et Juliana nobis ut superiori domino regni Scotiae 
cum instantia supplicarunt ut eis super hoc in vestri justitiam 
fieri faciamus Nos igitur qui sumus et esse debemus singulis de 
potestate et dominio nostro in exhibenda justitia debitores 
adjornamus vos quod sitis coram nobis in Crastino Animarum 
ubicunque tunc fuimus in Anglia prefatis Alexandro et Juliane 
super premissis responsuri et ulterius futuri et recepturi quod cura 
nostra consideraverit in hac parte. Et habeatis ibi hoc breve 
Tempus ut supra Et fuit clausa 

Et mandatum est vicecomitatu Northumbrie itc. ut in" 


Rex omnibus ad quos &c. salutem Sciatis quod constituimus Rotuli Scotiw. 
dilectum nobis Alexandrum de Insula ballivum nostrum ad 
capiendum in manum nostram terram de Kentyr cum pertinentibus 
que prius capi debuerat in manum nostram per defaltam quam 
Johannes de Balliolo nuper Rex Scotie fecit in cura nostra coram 
nobis in Crastino Animarum proximo preterito versus Malculmum 
le fix Leugleys de Scotia qui terram illam in eadem cura coram 
nobis tanquam superiore domino regni Scotie petiit versus prefatum 
regem ut jus et hereditatem suam et que ad manam nostram jam 
devenit tanquam escaeta nostra per forisfecturam ejusdem regis 
et etiam per redditionem quam nobis fecit de homagio suo quod 
nobis prius fecerat de eodem regno et ad terram illam cum pertin- 
entibus custodiendam quamdiu nobis placuerit ita quod nobis inde 
respondeat ad mandatum nostrum. In cujus &c. 

T. R. apud Berewyk super Twedam XV. die Aprilis. 

THE ISLES. 1296. 

Pro Alexandro de Insula. Patent Roll. 

Rex omnibus ad quos, etc., salutem. 

Sciatis quod pro bono servitio quod dilectus nobis Alexander 
de Insula nobis hacteuus impendit et impendet in futurum, 


concessimus ei centum libratas terrae et reddifcus de primis 
custodiis quas ad man us nostras accidere contigerit citra mare 
Scotiae per quinquennium a tempore quo hujusmodi custodia sibi 
per praeceptum nostrum fuerit liberata. In cujus, etc. 

Teste rege apud Berewicke super Twedam, xij de Septembris. 

Et mandatum et Petro de Donewyco, escaetori regis citra 
mare Scotiae, quod praefato Alexandro de hujusmodi custodiis 
centum libratas terrae et redditus habere faciat, juxta formam 
concessionis praedictae. Test, ut supra. 


Rotuli Scotiae. Rex imiversis et singuHs fidehbus suis terrarum de Ergardia 
et Ros salutem — 
Mandamus vobis quod dilecto et fideli nostro Alexandro de 
Insulis intendentes respondentes consulentes sitis et auxiliantes ad 
quosdam malefactores et pacis nostre perturbatores qui per divisa 
loca in partibus illis vagantur et discurrunt homicidia depreda- 
tiones incendia et alia dampna diversa contra pacem nostram 
perpetrantes et de die in diem perpetrare uon desistentes 
aiTestandos et in persona nostra salvo custodiendos donee aliud 
inde precepimus quotiens ex parte nostra a prefato Alexandro 
super hoc fueritis premuniti In cujus &c. usque ad festum Sancti 
Michelis proximo future duratur nisi aliud interim inde duximus 

T. R. apud BufFast ix die Aprilis. 


Record Office, Memorandum quod iste est processus . . . anno M.C.C. 
London. nonogesimo septimo, videlicet, quod cum Laclan Magrogri fecisset 
horn . . . utum, dictus L. ad insulas rediens, dominicas domini 
regis terras sibi usurpavit . . . ricum prsedse totaliter 
devastavit. Super quibus homines insulani Alexandro de Yle 
nuncios miserunt . . . negotiis, et dictus Alexander misso 
exercitu securitatem recepit a priefato Rodrico et ab hominibus 
dicti . . . compentete quod starent regis voluntati et mandatis. 
Postmodum vero prsedictus Lachlan, unico filio . . . nee ulla 


permissione retenta prsefatas insulas domini regis invaserunt, ac in 
eisdem insulis . . . incendia et depreedationes atrociter per- 
petrarunt, et irruentes ex improviso super qiiosdam ex hominibus 
dicti Alexandri ipsos galeis et bonis suis spoliaverunt. Quo facto, 
insulani iterato ad Alexandrum destinaverunt nuncios, petentes 
quod dictus dominus Alexander personaliter cum suo exercitu ante 
dominicum in Ramis Palmarum versus insulas access . . . et 
dictum Lohlan, in primis cum ita esset obsessus quod resistere non 
posset, ad voluntatem domini regis recepit permissionem ut . . . 
filium suum regi daret in obsidem, et quod castrum suum redderet 
ad regis voluntatem. Ipso vero L. sic coustituto . . . praedictus 
Rodricus frater suus cum potentia dlcti L. et suggestione, ut 
dicitur, quosdam de hominibus dicti Alexandri ... ad quandam 
insulam divertere hostiliter invasit, et ex eis circiter triginta 
interfecit ; quo facto, Alexander cum tota potentia sua prfcdictum 
Rodricum per terram et mare prosecutus est, ita quoad vi com- 
pulsus se reddidit, et in vinculis tanquam priso tenetur. 

Dictus vero Lochlanus filium suvim Alexandrum reddidit in 
obsidem, et etiam castrum, et quia continebatur in littera domini 
regis quod Alexander de Yle salvo custodiret preefatos malefactores, 
donee aliud a rege reciperet in mandatis, dispositis insulis regis 
meliori modo quo poterit, et i3ace reddita huspandis et mulieribus 
(qu.i prius non audebant pro timore dictorum malefactorum extra 
castrorum refugia commorari), duxit secum dictum Lochlan donee 
per ballivos regies esset consultus quid de tali homine foret 
agendum. Sed dictus L., relicto filio in obside et fratre suo in 
carcere, relictis etiam galeis suis clam et furtive recessit, et (vit 
creditur quantumcunque poterit), homines et terras regis molest- 

Dictus vero Alexander, praemissis fratribus suis cum exercitu 
ad dictum L. prosequendum, et ad terras suas in manu regis 
Sesyandum, personaliter cum expeditione cito sequendum. . . . 
sit dictus Alexander ubi dictus L. receptabitur, nisi in terris 
domini Alexandri de Ergadia, cujus filiam . . . vel in terris 
domini Johannis Cumyn de Lochabor, quia homines dictae terrae 
dicto L. et Duncano filio domini Alexandri de Ergadia contra 
pacem domini regis jurati fuerant et uniti quod juxta castrum 
Johannis Cumin in Lochabar dua) magnse galeae fuerant, quibus in 
insulis non fuerunt majores. . . . dictae terrre renuerunt 
tradere Alexandre d' Eyl, juxta tenorem litteraj domini regis, sed 
potius Duncanum filium Alexandri de Ergadia, qui adhuc 
fidelitatem domino regi non fecerat, in capitaneum receperunt, ac 


dibtas galeas festinanter ad mare praeparaverunt, ac homines hinc 
inde in regno se regi objecerunt. Dictus Alexander, misso navali 
exercitu, dictas galeas sibi petiit reddi ex parte regis, tanquam 
constitute capitaneo per litteras regis de Ergadia et de Ross ; sed 
homines existentes in praefato castro simpliciter galeas reddere 
renuerunt, et homines Alexandri de Yle petentes naves cum 
sagattis et carellis vidneraverunt, nee aliquam fidem voluerunt 
facere quod dictse galfe contra regem non venirent. Et quia 
homines dicti Alexandri propter pugnam imminentem de castro 
non poterant galeas salvas educere, vel ad mare traliere, ipsas in 
eodem loco combusserunt, ne terris et fidelibus regis forent 
periculum et descrimen. Dictus etiam Alexander de Yle, audito 
quod Senescallus Scotise contra dominum regem insurrexit, 
quoddam castrum cum baronia, nomine Glasrog, qua) preedictus 
Senescallus tenuit, in manu regis sesiavit et adhuc detinet, paratus 
ad alias terras procedere ad domini regis commodum et mandatum, 
et de terris quas occupat nomine regis secundum ordinationem 
suam et ballivorum suorum in omnibus parere. 

Dictus Vero Alexander de Yle supplicat domino Johanni de 
Benestede quod ista ostendat domino regi cum effectu, et quod 
super istis dominus rex voluntatem suam dicto Alexandre celeriter 
transmittat, et quod etiam supplicat domino regi de expensis dicti 
Alexandri in expeditionibus ejusdem auni et quod nichil recepit 
de quingentis libris [?] quas dominus rex anno prseterito sibi 
concessit, nee a balliva sua adhuc super eisdem aliquam sufficientem 
habet responsionem. Super hiis et omnibus aliis petit regis 

ISLES. 1301. 

Record Office, Nobilissimo viro ac excellentissimo, domino Eduardo Dei 
London. gratia regi Angiiae, domino Hibernae, suus Enegus de Yle, humilis 
et fidelis, salutem quam sibi. 

Vestra sciat nobilitas quod Ego fui in comitatu domini Hugoni 
Bisseth et cum classe vestra quamdiu fuit in insula de Buth, 
videlicet, usque diem Dominicam proximo ante festum Michaelis 
ultimo prseteritum, et adhuc sum, expectans mandatum vestrum. 

Quare vestram nobilitatem exoro umiliter et requiro, quatinus 
quod si creditis quod Alexander de Ergadia sit in pace vestra et 
protectione mandetis dicto Alexandre ut sit ausilians et consulens 


domino Hugoni Bisseth et Engusio mihi de Yle, et omnibus 
hominibus vestris ut mediante sua potentia et vestra inimicos 
vestros possimus destruere et vires inimicorum ad nichilum 
redigere. Et si creditis quod non est in pace vestra, miltatis ad 
nos consilium vestrum litteratorie, ut possimus, Deo adjuvante, 
ipsum ac alios vestros inimicos per insulas destruere. 

Cacterum vestram dominationem humiliter exoro pro filiis 
Rodrici, qui in potentia nostra sunt, ' in hiis annis,' et fuerunt 
contra omnes vestros adversaries et nostros ; quatinus si placet 
velitis concedere eis nativum feodum colere, ut vobis serviant 
humiliter et fideliter, prout regi debeant obedire. 


C. 1320. 

Robertus &c. Confirmasse Roderico filio Alani dilecto et fideli Haddington'i 
et servitio suo davatam terre cum dimidia de Modworth cum Collections, 
advocatione ecclesie ejusdem loci : Tres davatas terrse de Knod- 
woracbe — dimidiam davatum de Dyrliaks viz. quinque denariatas : 
terra3 de Gcdwall et quinque denariatas de Glenbrescall et Bethey ; 
Sex davatas terras de Egis et de Rum cum advocatione ecclesie 
ejusdem et aliis pertinentiis : Sex davatas et tria quarteria terrte 
in parochia de Kilphedder blisten ; Insulam de Barray cum per- 
tinentiis ; et Insulam de Harris cum pertinentiis : Quasquidem 
terras Christina de Mar filia quondam Alani filii Roderici per 
fustum et baculum nobis sursum reddidit ; Tenendas et habendas 
prsedicto Roderico et heredibus suis masculis de corpore suo 
legitime procreatis de nobis et heredibus nostris in feodo et 
hereditate etc. Faciendo servitium unius navis viginti et sex 
remorum cum hominibus et victualibus pertinentibus et eando in 
exercitu nostro cum opus habuerimus et super hoc fuerint 
rationaliter summoniti. Voluimus tamen et ordinamus quod si 
dictus Rodericus heredem masculum non habeat quod Rodericus 
filius dictso Christinec dictaa Terras habeat et teneat hereditaria et 
quod idem Rodericus tenetur maritare filiam vel filias predicti 
Roderici avunculi sui si quam vel quas legitimas habuerit cum 
quadringentis marcis sterling : Et si contigerit humanitas de 
prsedicto Roderico prcedictaj Christianse Ita quod successio prse- 
dictarum terrarum ad ipsum pcrvenire non poterit, filia vel filia) 
predicti Roderici filii Alani post patrem suum hereditabit in terris 
pi'cdictis et si dictus Rodericus filius Alani nullum heredem super- 


stitem habuerit volumus quod dictee terrse cum pertinentiis ad 
predictam Christianam et heredes suos ex tunc de dono nostro 
libere reverentur. 

In cujus Rei testimonium &c. &g. 

DE INLULIS. 1336. 

Prryy Seals Rex omnibus ad quos &c. salutem. Inspeximus quasdam 
Tower of . ^ . 

London. litteras mdentatas factas inter magnificum principem Dommum 

Edwardum regem Scotorum illustrem consanguineum nostrum 

carissimum et Johannem de Insulis in liec verba 

Hec indentura facta apud villam de Perth die Jovis xij die 

Septembris anno domini millesimo trescentesimo quinto inter 

excellentissimum principem Dominum Edwardum Dei gratia 

regem Scotorum illustrem ex una parte et Johannem de Insulis ex 

altera parte testatur quod dictus dominus rex concessit quantum 

in se est predicto Johanni pro bono et laudabili servitio sibi 

imj)enso ac in futuro impendendo per se et heredes suos 

Insulam de Ysle 

Terram de Kentyre 

Terram de Knappedoll 

Insulum de Githe 

Dimidium Insule de Dure 

Insulam de Gohvonche 

Insulam de MuUe 

Insulam de Sky 

Insulam de Lewethy 

Terram de Kenalbadon et de Ardinton 
teuenda eidem Johanni heredibus et assignatis suis Concessit 
etiam dictus dominus rex eidem Johanni wardam de Loghaber 
usque ad legitimam etatem filii et heredis Domini David de 
Strabolgy ultimi comitis Atholle'. Pro quibus quidem conces. 
sionibus predictis prefatus Johannes de Insulis obligat se et 
heredes suos esse ligios homines et fideles dicto domino regi et 
heredibus suis impei'petuum et gravaudi omnes suos inimicos et 
rebelles quibuscumque diebus et locis et omnibus quibus eos 
gravare poterit et se et suos ac heredes ejus quoscumque Et pro 
securitato omnium premissorum fideliter complendi prsestetur 
sacranaentum corporale per dictum Johannem super sanctum 


eukaristiam calicem altaris et missale Tteui vtilt et concedit 
dictus Johannes quod si predictus dominus rex obsidem vel 
obsides ab eo voluerit habere pro majori securitate faciendum 
consanguineum vel consanguineos suos minoris etatis sibi pro- 
pinquiores dicto nomino regi reddendos cum tempus opportunum 
advenerit Quia dictus Johannes filiiim nee heredem a corpore sue 
nondum habet legitime procreatum quod compaternitas ejusdem 
heredis prefato Johanni concedatur. 

Nos autem omnia et singulas in litteris predictis contenta pro 
nobis et heredibus nostris quantum ad nos pertinet acceptamus 
ratificamus approbamus et confirmamus sicut littere predicte 
plenius testantur. 

In cujus &c. 

T. R. apud Aukland quinto die Octobris. Per ipsum regem. 

EDWARD III. 1336. 

Rex imivcrsis et singulis vicecomitibus ballivis ministris et Rotuli Seotise. 
aliis fidelibus tarn infra libertates qnam extra tam in Scotia quam 
in Anglia ad quos &c. salutem. Sciatis quod cum nobilis vir 
Johannes de Insulis ad nos et Edward um regem Scotorum 
illustrem consanguineum nostrum carissimum sit venturus 
suscepimus ipsum Johanuem et homines de familia sua et 
servientes suos ac equos hernesia et alias res suas veniendo ad nos 
et ad dictum consanguineum nostnim ubicumque fuimus ibidem 
morando et exinde rede undo in protectionem et defensionem 
nostram specialem necnon in salvuni et securum conductum 
nostrum &c. Sicut in aliis literis de salvo conductu usque ad 
festum Sancti Andrce proximum futurum duratur, 

T. R. apud Aukeland quinto die Octobris Per ipsum regem. 


Rex universis et singulis admirallis vicecomitibus majoribus Rotuli Scotiaa, 
ballivis ministris magistris et marinariis navium ac omnibus aliis 
fidelibus suis ubicunque in dominiis nostris existentibus sive in 
mari sive in terra tam infra libertates quam extra ad quos, 



(fee, salutem. Cum nobilis vir Johannes de Insulis infra 
regnum nostrum Angliae vel terram nostram Hiberniae sen ad 
partis dominii nostri in Scotia cum sexaginta aut quatuor 
viginti vel centum hominibus equitibus ad tractandum nobiscum 
seu aliis fidelibus et sectariis nostris quos ad hoc debut 
avimus sit venturus. Suscepimus ipsum Johannem et omnes 
predictos equites ac eorum servientes necnon magistros et 
marinarios navium eos ducentium ac easdem naves veniando infra 
regnum nostram et partes predictos et aliunde infra dominium 
nostrum tarn per terram quam per mare ibidem morando et exinde 
redeundo in protectionem et defensionem nostram specialem nec- 
non in salvum et securum conductum nostrum. Et ideo vobis 
sub forisfectura vite et membrorum et omnium aliorumque nobis 
forisfacere poteritis mandamus districtius injungentes quod eidem 
Johanui vel equitibvis predictis aut ipsorum servientibus magistris 
et marinariis navium ers ducentium veniendo infra predicta 
regnum terram et partes ac aliundo infra dominium nostrum 
predictum sive per terram sive per mare ibidem morando et 
exinde redeundo sicut predictum est in personis equis hernesiis 
aut aliis rebus suis non inferatis seu quantum in vobis est ab 
aliis inferri permittatis injuriam molestiam dampnum impedi- 
mentum aliquod seu gravamen sit eis potius salvum et securum 
conductum cum per districtus vcstros transitum fecerint habere 
factum quotiens per ipsum Johannem vel ex parte sua fueritis 
requisiti. Et si quid eis forisfectum fuerit id eis sioe dilatione 
facta emendari. In cujus, &c., usque ad festum Pentecostes 
proximum futurum duratum. 

T. R. apud Aldermanston tertio die Decembris. 

Per ipsum Regem. 


Rotuli ScotiEo. Rex universis presentas litteras inspecturis salutem. Sciatis 
quod nos de fidelitate probata et circumspectione provida dilecti 
et fidelis nostri Willelmi de Monte Acuto comitis Sarisburifc 
intime confidentes ad tractandum et concordandum nostro nomine 
et pro nobis cum nobile viro Johanna de Insulis super alligantiis 
et federibus inter nos et ipsum ineundis et super aliis omnibus et 
singulis que nostrum et nostros concernere potuerunt commodum 
et honorem et ea que sic tractata et concordata fuerint quacunque 


firmitate vallanda ac omnia alia et singula facieuda que in 
prsemissis et circa ea oportuna fuerint etiam si mandatum exigant 
sj)eciale eidem comiti tenore presentium plenani committimus et 
concedinuis potestatem. Promittentes pro nobis et heredibus 
nostris nos ratum et gratum habituros et effectualiter impleturos 
quicquid per prefatum comitem tractatum concordatum vallatum 
et actum fait in premissis vel aliquo premissorum Et literas 
dicti comitis in hac parte factas et contenta in eisdem acceptabi- 
mus et ea faciemns per nostras patentas literas securiori modo quo 
fieri potuerit confirmare In cujus &c 

Per ipsum regem 
. Datum apud Redyng quarto die Decembris 


Rex nobili ct potenti viro Johanni de Insulis amico suo Rotuli Scotise. 
carissimo salutem et sincere dilectois affectum Ex testimonio 
laudibili collateralis nostri prtecipui Willelmi de Monte Acuto 
comitis Sarisburiee et aliorum nostrorum fidelium recepimus et 
operis evidentia id ostendit quod constanter in fidelitate nostra 
presistitis et emulorum nostrorum malitiam multiplicitir refrenatis 
de quibus quantas possimus grates vobis referimus speciales 
gerentes in votis exceptam gratitudinis vestre constantiam ciam 
ea que regiam decet munificentiam retributionis exuberantia 
permiare adeo quod debebitis merito contentari. Velitis igitur 
petimus penes nos continuare benivolentiam quam cepistis tract- 
antes cum prefato comite cui velud secretario nostro confident- 
issimo super quibusdam vobis exprimendis aperuimus plenissime 
mentem nostram ac credentes eidem in dicendis ex parte nostra 
velud prelatis ab ore nostro Nam revera quicquid pro nobis 
vobis discerit vel prtemiserit plene faciemus et implebimus et 
multo plus prout excrescens vestra constantia id exposcet Ad 
hec pro vobis ad veniendum cum sexaginta octoginta vel centum 
comitibus secure infra regnum nostrum Anglia) et terras nostras 
Hibernise et Scotie illuc tute morando exinde libere redeundo 
literas nostras fieri fecimus de conductu quas prefato comiti 
fecimus liberari. 

Datum apud Redyng quarto die Decembris Et erat clausa, 




Acts of Scot- Apud Are XII. Die Junii A.R. XV. Dauid Dei gracia rex 
meut. Scottorum omnibus probis houiinibus locius terre sue clericis et 

laicis salutem Sciatis quod super finali concordia inter nos et 
Joliannem de Yle consanguineum nostrum carissimum habito 
prius diligenti tractatu communique utilitate regni nostri ac 
tranquillitate eiusdem premises dedimus concessimus et liac 
presenti carta nostra confirmavimus eidem Johanni pro homagio 
et servicio suo omnes et singulas insulas et terras subscriptas 
videlicet totam insulam que vocatur Yle insulam de Geday 
insulam de Jura insulam de Colinsay cum omnibus aliis minutis 
insulis ad dictas insulas pertinentibus insulam de Mule cum suis 
minutis insulis insulas de Tirayd et de Colla cum suis minutis 
insulis insulam de Lewes cum suis minutis insulis totam terram 
de Morimare cum pertinenciis totam terram de Louchabre liberam 
et exemptam ab omni actione vel clameo cuiuscumque terram de 
Glenchomyr cum pertinenciis et custodias castrorum nostrorum de 
Kerneborgh Iselborgh et Dunchonall cum terris et minutis insulis 
ad dicta nostra pertinentibus tenendas et habendas omnes terras 
et insulas predictas cum custodiis castrorum predictorum eidem 
Johanni et beredibus suis de nobis et heredibus nostris in foedo et 
hereditate libere, quiete pleuarie integre et honorifice cum aduo- 
cationibus ecclesiarum cum aucupationibus piscationibus et 
venaciouibus vnacum aeriis falconum et omnimodis aliis libertati- 
bus commoditatibus ayfiamentis et iustis pertinentiis in omnibus 
et per omnia tam non nominatis quam nominatis ad predictas 
terras et insulas spectantibus, sou juste spectari valentibus in 
futurum quoquo modo : Faciendo nobis et heredibus nostris 
predictus Johannes et heredes sui servicia, tam per mare quam per 
terram, de omnibus et singulis terris et insulis predictis debita et 
consueta tempore recolende memorie domini patiis nostri ; 
volumusque quod dictus Johannes et heredes sui terram de 
Louchabir et omnes alias terras et insulas predictas habeant, 
teneant, et possideant in eadem libertate in omnibus sicut liberius 
teneri consueverunt tempore domini patris vel temporibus aliorum 
predecessorum nostrorum regum Scocie. 

In cuius rei testimonium &g. 



Rex universis et singulis vicecomitibus ballivis ministris ct Rotuli Scotia. 
aliis fidelibus suis ad quos &c. salutem. Sciatis quod suscepimus 
in protectionem et defensionem nostram Johannem del Isle 
militem de partibus Scotie prisonarium Edwardi principis Wallie 
filii nostri carissimi et quatuor equites de comitiva sua euudo ad 
partes Scotie pro redemptione sua querenda et ipsum Johannem 
cum dictis quatuor equites pro se in Angiia cum redemptione 
prtedicta redeundo. El ideo vobis mandamus quod eidem Johanni 
aut dictus quatuor equitibus &c. j^ront in similibus. In cujus &,c. 
per unum annum duratur. 

T. R. apud Westminster xvj. die Decembris Per ipsum regum 


David dei gratia Rex Scottorum omnibus &c. Sciatis uosMacdonaM 
approbasse &c. amnes donationes et concessiones factas vcl con- 
cessas per quoscunque vcl quascunque dilccto cousanguineo nostro 
Johanni de Insulis de (iuibuscun([ue terris tenementis amnis 
redditibus et possessionibus quibuscunque justis cum pertinenciis. 
Tenendas at habendas dicto Johanni ct heredibus nostris et de 
aliis capitalibus dominibus foedi dictarum terrarum annuorum 
reddituum et possessionum predictarum a deo libere et quictc in 
omnibus et per omnia sicut in cartis sive Uteris (puis idem 
Johannes inde habet plenius continatur. Salvo scrviciu nostro. 
In cujus rei &c. Test. &c. 

Apud Edijnburgh quarto die Julij Anno regni nostri Triccsimu 


Robertus Dei gi-acia, etc. Omnibus, etc. Sciatis nos dedisse Reg. Mag. SIk- 
concessissc ct hac pvesenti carta nostra conCu-massc dilecto filio 
nostro Johanni del Yle omnes et singulas terras tricentarum 
mercurum que fuerunt quondam Alani iilii Rodorici infra regnuuj 
nostrum videlicet terras de Modoworth Arrassag Morcovyr Knode- 
worte Ouyste Barreh Rumme Egge et Hyrce cum pertinenciis tarn 


infra partes insular um quam in magna terra Tenendas et habendas 
eidem Johanni heredibus suis et suis assignatis de nobis et 
heredibus nostris in feodo et hereditate per omnes rectas metas 
et divisas suas cum omnibus et singulis libertatibus commoditati- 
bus aysiumentis et justis pertinenciis suis quibuscunque ae dictas 
terras spectantibus seu aliquo modo spectare valentibus in futurum 
adeo libere quiete plenarie integre et honorifice in omnibus et per 
omnia sicut dictus quondam Alanus filius Roderici dictas terras 
cum pertinenciis aliquo tempore liberius qviiecius plenius et 
honor ificencius juste tenuit seu possedit Faciendo nobis et heredi- 
bus nostris predictus Johannes et heredes sui servicia de predictis 
terris cum pertinenciis debita et consueta In cuius rei tetimonium 
huic presenti carte nostre nostrum precepimus apponi Siggillum 
Testibus etc. Apud Sconam tempore parliamenti nostri ibidem 
tenti nono dei March anno Regni nostri secundo. 


Wy ntoun's Qwhat was thare mare 1 The King Daivy 

Chronicle. Gaddryd his ost in full gret hy ; 

And wyth thame oft' the north cuntre 
Till Saynt Johnystown than come he. 
Raynald off the Ilys than, 
That wes commendyt a gud man, 
Come till hym at that rade to be. 
The Erie off" Ross wes thare allsua, 
That to this Raynald wes full fa ; 
Tharefore he gert hym swa aspy 
In till Elyhok that nwnry, 
Quhare that he wes lyand then 
He gert sla hym and his seivyn men ; 
And to Ross wyth his menyhe 
Agayne in hy than turnyd he. 


Reg. Mag. Sig, Rex, etc. Omnibus, etc. Sciatis nos approbasse ratificasse et 
hac presenti carta nostra pro nobis et nostris heredibus iuper- 
petuum confirmasse donacionem illam et concessionem quas 
dilectus filius noster Johannes de Yle fecit Reginaldo de Yle filio 


suo de Iiibulis^ tcrris et custris iufrascriptis videlicet De terra de 
Mudewort cum castro de Elautirym de terra Arrasayk de terra de 
Morowore et de terra de Cnudeforde de insula de Egge de insula 
de Rume de insixla Huwyste cum castro de Vynvawle de insula de 
Barre et de insxila de Herce cum omnibus aliis minutis Insidis ad 
dictas Insulas pertinentibus de tribus unciatis terre de Swynwort, 
et de Lettirlochette de duabus unciatis terre de Ardegowar de una 
unciata terre de Hawlaste cum advocacionibus ecclesiarum 
earundem terrarum et sexaginta mercatis terre in partibus de 
Lochabre videlicet De decern et septem denariatis terre de Loclie 
de dimidia davata terre de Kylmauld et de una davata cum 
dimidia de Locharkage in extentam quadringentarum et viginti 
mercatarum terre Tenendas et habendas prefatas terras insulas 
cum castris predictis eidem Pteginaldo et heredibus suis masculis 
de corpore legitime procreandis de prefato . . Johanne de Yle et 
heredibus suis per omnes rectas metas et divisas suas adeo libere 
quiete plenarie integre et bonorifice in omnibus et per omnia sic at 
carta prefati . . Johannis de Yle prefato Reginaldo filio suo exiude 
confecta in se juste continet et proportat salvo servicio nostro . . 
In cujus rei etc. Testibus etc. Apud Arnelc primo die . . 
Jauuarii anno regni nostro secundo. 


Robertus dei gracia Rex Scottorum omnibus probis hominibus Reg. Mag. Sig. 
tocuis terre sue salutem. Sciatis nos dedisse &c. dilecto filio 
nostro Johanni del Yle insulam de Colowsay cum pertinenciis que 
fuit euisdem Johannis et quam ipse Johannes nobis sursum 
reddidit et resignavit Tenendam et habendum eidem Johanni et 
dilecte fills nostre Margarete spouse sue eorumqvie alteri diuciu6 
viventi ac heredibus dicti Johannis legitimis inter ipsos legitime 
procreatis seu procreandis qiiibus forte deficientibus heredibus 
dicti Johannis legitimis quibuscunque de nobis et heredibus nostris 
in feodo et hereditatc adeo libere et quiete in omnibus et per 
omnia sicut dictus Johannes, dictam Insulam cum pertinenciis de 
nobis ante huiusmodi Rcsignacionem libcrius ct quiccius instc 
tenuit sue possedit Facicndo inde scrvicia dcbita et cons no ta. 
In cuius rei etc. Testibus etc. 

Apud Strivelyne secto die Junii anno regni uostri sexto. 


LOCHABER— 6th June 1376. 

Macdonald Robertus dei gratia Rex Scottorum omnibus probis hominibus 
Collections. ^^Qg^^jg terro salutem. Sciatis nos dedisse Concessisse et hae 
presenti carta nostra confirmasse dilecto filio nostro Johannie del 
Yle totas terras de Lochabre cum pertinenciis infra vicecomitatu 
de Invernys que fuerunt ipsius Johannes et quas ipse Johannes 
nobis rursum reddidit et resige navit Tenendas et habendas eidem 
Johanne et dilecte filie nostre Margarete sponse sue eorumque 
alteri diucius vivanti ac heredibus inter ipsos legitime procreatis 
quibus forte deficientibus heredibus dicti Johannis legitimis 
quibuscunque, de nobis et heredibus nostris in foedo et hereditate 
adeo libere et quiete in omnibus et per omnia sicut dictas 
Johannes dictas terras cum pertinenciis de nobis anti hujusmodi 
resignationem liberius quiccius juste tenuit seu possidet. Faci- 
endo inde servicia debita et consueta. In cujus rei, &c. 
Testibus, &c. 

Apud Strivelyne sexto die Junii anno regni nostri sexto. 


Macdonald David dei gracia Rex Scottorum omnibus probis hominibus 
Collections. Sciatis nos dedisse concessisse et hac presenti carta nostra con- 
firmasse Johanni de Yle et Margaret de Vans spouse sui totam 
terram nostram de Buchanne cum pertinentiis infra vicecomitatu 
de Strivlyne Tenendam et habendam eisdem Johanni et Margaret 
et heredibus suis inter ipsos legitime procreatis seu procreandis de 
nobis et heredibus nostris in foedo et hereditate per omnes rectas 
metas et divisas suas et cum omnibus aliis et singulis libertatibus 
etc. ad dictam terram spectantibus etc. Quibus vero heredibus 
inter dictos Johannem et Margaretam procreatis seu procreandis 
forte deficientibus volumns quod dicta terra de Buchanne cum 
pertinentiis ad nos et successores nostros libere revertatur. 
Faciendo nobis et heredibus nostris dictus Johannes et Margareta 
et heredes sui supradicti, servicium de predicta terra debitnm et 
consuetum, Revocatione nostra de eadem facta non obstante. In 
cujus rei etc. Apud Strivelyne sexto die Jiinii anno regni nostri 



Rex per literas suas pateutis per sexcenninm suscepit in Rotuli Scotise. 
salvum ct securiim conductum suum ac in protectionem et 
defensionem. R. speciales Donaldum filium Johaniiis de Out Isles 
in Scotia Clericuni Venieudo in regnum Anglite per dominium et 
protestatem R. tam per terram quam per mare usque Villam 
Oxonise ibidem in iiniversitate studendo morando et exinde ad 
propria rediundo. Dum tamen idem Donaldus quicquam quod in 
regni R. sen corone prejudicium sedere potuerit non attemptit seu 
attemptare faciat quovis modo. 

T, R. Apud Westminstrem primo die Augusti. Per Concilium. 


Rex per literas suas patentes per unum annum duraturam si Rotuli Scotia, 
treuge inter ipsum it illos de Scotia nuper inite per tautum 
tempus duraverint